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1995 Midwest Oak Savanna and Woodland Ecosystems Conferences


Appendix E 

Research questions and topics compiled and ranked by the Research Working Group of the Midwest Environmental Roundtable's Interagency Cooperation on Ecosystem Management as described in Botts et al. (1994, pp. 37-41).

  1. List high quality sites.
  2. Creation of insect species lists.
  3. Concentrate on species for whom system recovery should make a difference. What plants and animals would be most significantly impacted by a recovery plan (savanna-specific species). How to get a handle/focus on which species will be most affected? Positive vs. adverse impacts. What species are out there that we don't even know about. Role of Heritage Programs.
  4. How does the distribution of herbaceous species relate to canopy closure?
  5. Effects of management on insects.
  6. Species response to different fire regimes (invertebrates).
  7. What are the light requirements of flora and fauna?
  8. How are the edaphic, fire, and successional gradients related tot he distribution of community types and species?
  9. Effect of reintroduction of fire to savanna communities. There is little information on the effect of flora and fauna. There needs to be long-term studies and permanent study plots.
  10. How important are the impacts of herbivores on savanna stability and structure (large grazing mammals as well as birds and insects)? 
  11. Topography gives variability. Role in types of species and quality of plants, sunlight, water table, soil formation, temperature and fire history.
  12. How much and how fast do communities change relative to climatic shifts and succession after fire? What factors are related to community stability?
  13. Standard classification system. Add soil moisture and chemistry.
  14. Determine whether different management approaches to restring and maintaining savanna influence the diversity of species at a site? Stated differently, do some management regimes favor some types or guilds of species over others? Can biodiversity be maximized?
  15. What are the effects of non-oak trees in an oak savanna?
  16. What is the difference between a woodland and a savanna?
  17. What changes in species composition occur across the savanna portion of the vegetation continuum?
  18. Research the wetland/prairie/savanna interface and savanna/woodland interface, then integrate lists (plants and animals). From these lists create indicator and dominant species lists.
  19. Research both natural and human disturbance on savannas.
  20. What was the role of native Americans with respect to savannas?
  21. What geographic areas are oak savannas. Circulate lists/maps for comment and consolidation. Store in database, develop indicator species and structures.
  22. Correlation between canopy and basal classification.
  23. Identify which species are dependent on metapopulation dynamics for their persistence, thus requiring large preserves for viable populations.
  24. What are the landscape scale relationships between species and communities? How much of the diversity is related to the mosaic of communities? What are the optimal mixes of community types and conditions for critical species?
  25. What features distinguish oak savanna ecosystems (soil characteristics, hydrology, sun/shade patterns, topography, animals, geologic history, land use.
  26. What are the dynamic characteristics of oak savanna ecosystems?
  27. What are the habitat requirements of the rare species found in savannas? Do some require both open and savanna habitat for persistence? What are the distributions and dynamics of rare species along various environmental gradients (light, soil, fire, hydrology, litter)?
  28. Animal/plant reintroduction experiments are needed.
  29. Dominance of root systems.
  30. What were the mycorrhizal, and fungal relationships in oak savannas? 
  31. Role of shrubs in savanna.
  32. What is the effect of natural tree mortality, such as from oak decline, and two-lined chestnut borer epidemics, on maintenance of understory species? (Gypsy moth?)
  33. How do effects of severe droughts resemble and differ from fire effects? Were cyclic climatic shifts important in maintaining species associated with savannas? To what extent were savannas refugia for survival of prairie, wetland, and woodland species impacted by climatic shifts?
  34. How large an area is needed to support viable populations of different species?
  35. What is required to create effective migration and dispersal corridors between reserves? For which type of organisms must the corridors be their optimal habitat. Research the relevance of dispersal for rare species to identify barriers to dispersal.
  36. What habitats are needed by animals during restoration? What should be introduced or reintroduced?
  37. Does animal use differ between high-quality natural sites and restored sites?
  38. Regional perspective on patterns of savanna distribution; dominant plant members and possible indicator species or ecological groups; use aerial photographs and land surveys.
  39. Can land management techniques be developed that will allow sustainable use of savanna/woodland resources and protect rare and endangered species?
  40. Determine the range of morphological and genetic variability within species across geographic and ecological gradients where relevant. This is relevant to determining population protection priorities.
  41. Are different definitions in different states the result of geographic variation of the ecosystem?
  42. Can polenology provide additional information on the presettlement composition of oak savannas and the changes that were associated with climatic shifts?
  43. How have oak savannas changed through time?




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