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Bringing Diversity Back to the Oak Openings

Scott Abella began researching changes in plant life in the Oak Openings in 2002 as an undergraduate intern from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Fifteen years later, Dr. Abella, assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, continues his research on his summer breaks.

Part of his job then, as now, was to document changes in the makeup of plant communities after Metroparks began removing aging pine trees planted in the early half of the 1900s to stem soil erosion.

The pines served their purpose, but also prevented the growth of native species in the rare Oak Openings Region of western Lucas County. When the pines were removed, the results were dramatic.

“It’s been a complete ecosystem transformation,” he said.

Dr. Abella recently detailed Metroparks work in a paper, Restoring and conserving rare native ecosystems: A 14-year plantation removal experiment, in the journal, Biological Conservation.

He explains the project in the video below.

Photos by Art Weber; video by Tyler Sabo