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Forest Carbon Management
In 2021, the Kalamazoo Nature Center committed to a bold goal, aiming for net zero greenhouse gas emissions from facilities and operations by 2035. As a nature center with responsibility for managing over 1,500 acres of land, we also wanted to explore nature-based strategies for climate action. By quantifying the carbon in our forests, we have established a benchmark to protect our existing carbon stocks and have built a plan to improve our land’s ability to sequester carbon in the future. Taken together with our emissions reduction strategies, the Kalamazoo Nature Center is making sustainable climate action a priority in how we operate, how we engage our community, and how we care for our land.
View our Story Map to learn more: Managing Forest Carbon at KNC . Please note: the Story Map, which scrolls down using a mouse or arrow keys, is best viewed on a desktop or laptop. Mobile views may be more difficult to navigate.
Prairie Fen Wetland Management
One of the land management priorities at the Kalamazoo Nature Center is maintaining our high quality fen wetlands. Fens are characterized by their unique hydrology and plant communities that support numerous rare, threatened, and endangered plants and wildlife. Many of these species are not shade tolerant and depend on these fens to remain open to sunlight. With the introduction of invasive species and the lack of natural disturbance, restoration of these wetlands is sometimes neccessary to keep these unique ecosystems open with minimal trees and shrubs. Our primary management tool to maintain and restore these open fen wetlands is prescribed fire. Fire is used to knock back and stunt the growth of woody vegetation and to stimulate new growth for some of the unique herbaceous plants. In addition to prescribed fire, we also do mechanical woody invasive species management by hand using tools like chainsaws, brush cutters, loppers, and more.
Slide below to see the Sugarbush progress!
Climate-resilient Sugarbush Forest Restoration
Early in 2020, the Kalamazoo Nature Center (KNC) began restoring the land adjacent to our Alice Batts Apkarian and Ara Apkarian Maple Sugar Shack. Over the last decade, this area was increasingly overcome with dead ash trees and invasive shrubs. Our Conservation Stewardship team had worked to clear out most of the dead trees and to remove aggressive, non-native plants. Thanks to the help of several community donors and a 2020 tree planting grant from the Michigan Arbor Day Alliance, KNC staff has now planted diverse trees and shrubs in this location and completed the initial restoration effort.
In October 2020, KNC staff members and local high school students from KNC’s Heronwood program planted 66 trees and shrubs of 14 different species at the restoration site, investing in KNC’s ecological health and future programming. The project gave students an opportunity to work alongside natural resources professionals, see restoration work in action, and have quality time in nature during a difficult year.
Local leaders in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby also offered financial support for this project to help KNC become more resilient in a very different climate future. The restoration plan targeted species that are typical of a beech-maple forest, but also included species like hackberry and chinkapin oak that can tolerate a variety of conditions. Sadly, sugar maple trees are not expected to adapt well to the climate conditions projected for the southwest Michigan region of the future, though they are very meaningful to KNC traditions. As an experiment in adaptation for our sugarbush restoration, the team sourced sugar maple trees grown from Ohio seed sources. We hope that their slightly more southern genotypes may be better adapted to the likely warmer temperatures of our future, and that we can continue to offer the Maple Sugar Festival for generations to come.