Monitoring Black Oak Savannas in the Indiana Dunes
Bharath Ganesh Babu
Arts and Sciences
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Northwest Indiana contains one of the rarest ecosystems, the black oak (Quercus velutina) savanna. An oak-savanna is a wooded community with herbaceous groundcover and a tree canopy between 10 and 50%, consisting mostly of Quercus sps. The total number of oak-savannas in the Midwest has decreased by 99.8% in the past century, from 15,000,000 acres to 30,000. Today, the black oak savannas in the Indiana Dunes are under threat due to fire suppression and a decreased fire interval. This fire suppression has allowed some areas to transition to a closed canopy woodland, allowing shade tolerant and fire intolerant species to take root. The purpose of this study was to compare three different sites within the Indiana Dunes (Cowles Bog, Miller Woods, and Dune Ridge) and document change from a 1990 study conducted by the National Park Service. Forest composition, canopy cover, and tree density were measured at three sites within the park that were historically black oak savannas. Cowles Bog and Dune Ridge had a stand density of 800 trees/ha and 538 trees/ha, with canopy covers of 72.28% and 68.55%, respectively. Only Miller Woods can still be considered a black oak savanna with a stand density of 275 tree/ha and a canopy cover of 41.77%. This is most likely due to high prescribed fire frequency and intense restoration efforts since 1980.
Noble, Sidney L., "Monitoring Black Oak Savannas in the Indiana Dunes" (2018). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 739.