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Iowa, prairie flora, prairie management, tallgrass prairie, urban prairie, volunteer land stewards


Although more than 85% of Iowa (USA) was covered by tallgrass prairie at the time of settlement by Europeans in the early 19th century, less than 0.1% remains. The Richard W. Pohl State Preserve at Ames (IA) High School, surrounded on three sides by structures, roads, and other development, protects 4 ha of tallgrass prairie. The preserve, commonly referred to as Ames High Prairie (AHP), was grazed but never plowed under private ownership until its acquisition by the Ames School District in 1959.

Although considered for development as a parking lot or football field in the 1960s, the residents of Ames voted in 1970 to award The Nature Conservancy (TNC) a 49-year lease to the property (until 2019). This preserve, almost completely open in the 1930s, has been subject to numerous threats, including encroachment by woody plants, entry of non-native and invasive plant species associated with human activity, and erosion associated with storm water runoff, sewer line repair, foot and bike traffic, and major flood events.

Recent management activities at AHP, conducted by volunteer land stewards, high school and college students, TNC summer interns, and private contractors, has consisted of controlled burns, cutting and herbicide treatment of encroaching woody plants, manual removal and herbicide treatment of invasive herbaceous plants, and sowing of seeds (collected on site) into reopened areas.

Three vascular plant inventories of the 8.9 ha preserve (1966, 1995, current study) have documented the occurrence of 465 taxa (329 native) at AHP, including 5 Iowa special concern species. This flora includes 147 native prairie plant taxa, which ranks 8th in comparison with the 26 other (and mostly larger) prairies protected as state preserves in Iowa. As a vegetation remnant, AHP protects tallgrass prairie taxa and their gene pools, maintains an example of historically abundant (but now scarce) tallgrass prairie vegetation, and provides citizens an opportunity to experience prairie.

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Journal of the Iowa Academy of Sciences





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© Copyright 2014 by the Iowa Academy of Science, Inc.



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