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Human efforts beneath the natural look

Before the snow starts to cover the ground, why don’t we go take a walk in this late fall, enjoying the fall leaves and golden prairie? While you are walking on the trails and taking in the nature, consider that much of the “natural” landscape in our Arb is actually artificially restored with tremendous management efforts, and in some places not until recently.

Before Carleton owned the land that is now the Arboretum, it was farmland. During European settlement, many natural forest and prairie habitats were converted into agriculture fields. The loss of habitats has been decimating the abundance and diversity of species in Minnesota.

Since Carleton decided to restore the natural landscape and to provide habitat for declining animal and plant species, various procedures and a huge amount of effort have been in play. To restore the forests, saplings are planted, as you might have done as an incoming student. The saplings also need to be protected from browsing herbivores (mostly deer). As the forests develop, we need to keep the invasive species such as honeysuckle and buckthorn away by manual removal, or fire if the planted trees are mature enough. For more mature restored forests, we also need to reintroduce native flowers. The end-goal of forest restoration is more than tree planting; we are restoring the whole ecosystem. To restore prairies, we manually collect seeds from our Arb as well as near-by prairies. Other than seed collecting, there are other tasks including soil preparation, seed cleaning, fire management, woody species removal, invasive species removal, etc. All these tasks require effort from the Arb staff, student Arb crew, and volunteers.

The next time we look at the exuberant forests and wide-open acres of prairies, let’s take a moment to absorb the wonder of the nature, and then take another moment to appreciate the human effort across space and time beneath our amazing Arboretum.

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