Plant monitoring at sites in the Metroparks started in 1988 with a goal of known occurrence inventories, as well as the positive identification of new rare/heritage species locations. The plant monitoring process added valuable information to the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserve’s database and, consequently, better informed park staff. Since this time, monitoring of rare plants has occurred annually, however, in varying capacities by volunteer monitoring teams.
Currently, there is a designated monitoring team for Oak Openings Preserve/Corridor properties (and Secor Metropark), as well as a team for Wildwood Preserve. Goals for both teams include locating historic occurrences, noting new occurrences, and documenting new species. Monitoring also occurs at Secor, Pearson, and Blue Creek Conservation Area, but on more limited terms. Currently, more state listed plant species reside in the Oak Openings Region than anywhere else in Ohio, yet habitats in this unique region have been drastically reduced in the last 200 years. Many more acres of habitat have been purchased by the Metroparks in the Oak Openings corridor in the last ten years. Each year, as these areas are botanized, new populations of rarities are discovered.
Metroparks has continued to monitor rare plants annually for these reasons:
- To document increases and decreases of population numbers
- To assist State of Ohio Natural Heritage Database with added rare plant data
- To contribute data toward adaptive management planning for land management practices (documenting threats in areas of rare plants)
- To populate GIS maps for use in coordinating Metropark activities, other research, land management/maintenance projects, etc.
- To locate and add new species and populations on newly acquired properties, as well as existing parklands
Monitoring typically occurs from April through October. New team members are trained and then encouraged to attend group monitoring excursions once a week during the growing season. Specific plant species are identified and data is recorded on a “rare plant monitoring” form with the following information: Timing of Visit; Status; “New” Location; UID code (for GIS purposes); Management unit number; Population; Sub-populations; Total count numbers; Count estimate categories; Count methods/protocol; Areas of Occupancy; Distribution/Density notes; Estimated area of occupancy; Habitat data and associated species; GPS location; and Site threats to the plant population. Since 2012, an IPAD was used in the field. This technology enables the plant monitors to have access to detailed maps of actual plant locations, data forms for completion, unique ID references, and previous monitoring forms while in the field. Through entering the information this way, the process is better streamlined for efficiency. Once the information is entered on the form, it can quickly be downloaded into the Metroparks GIS database for use on a layered GIS map. Maps contribute much background information to land management planning, research projects, and other Metropark activities.