Indiana Dunes State Park to restore 1,045 acres of black oak savanna; multi-partner project aims to restore disappearing ecosystem, support native species including Karner blue butterfly
June 10, 2014
– Indiana Dunes State Park will restore 32 acres of rare oak savanna habitat as part of a larger effort involving state and federal governments and a northwest Indiana conservation group.
An additional 1,045 acres of black oak savanna will be restored in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Partners in the project are the state park, the DNR Division of Nature Preserves, the national lakeshore, and the Save the Dunes organization.
Work will begin this summer and continue through next summer.
Black oak savanna is a disappearing ecosystem. It’s estimated that less than 0.02 percent of high quality oak savanna remains in the Midwest, a region that used to have an abundance of this ecosystem.
“Oak savannas are wonderfully unique and diverse habitats that support a range of important native plant and animal species such as the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly,” said Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes. “We are proud to work with the exceptional staff at the National Park Service and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to collaboratively restore an ecologically significant Indiana dunes resource back to health.”
The oak savannas being restored are near Trails 9 and 10 in the state park and in the Miller Woods and Tolleston Dunes units of the national lakeshore.
The remnant black oak savanna in the Indiana dunes is threatened by invasive plant species that limit the growth of native wildflowers and grasses. A savanna is unique because its trees are sparsely distributed, allowing growth of native wildflowers and grasses that require abundant sunlight.
The project will benefit both native wildlife and plants. In particular, the project will benefit the Karner blue butterfly that relies exclusively on oak savanna plants for survival. In recent years, the Karner blue butterfly population has declined drastically. Researchers are trying to isolate the cause. Until the cause of the decline is found, the national lakeshore is completing this project to ensure the best possible conditions for this species as well as other species that rely on the oak savanna.
During the restorations, visitors to the parks may notice equipment, woody debris piles, and periodic noise. It may become necessary to close trails for a day or more to ensure visitor safety.