Photo of the Week – February 24, 2010

Ice storms can be extremely damaging to trees and powerlines.  They can severely disrupt our lives by cutting power and making travel dangerous.  Conversely, ice doesn’t really have much impact on prairies.  Prairie vegetation is dormant during the winter, so any damage to aboveground portions of grasses and wildflowers is merely cosmetic.  The next year’s growth comes from buds that are safely belowground.

Barbed-wire in western Nebraska following an ice storm. The Nature Conservancy's Kelly Tract.

Western Nebraska experienced an ice storm last weekend that left the landscape sparkling in the sunshine by the time I drove out to visit one of our prairies Monday.  I managed to find a few minutes to photograph some of the results of the storm, but I didn’t have time to get very far into the prairies.  Fortunately, I could get as far as the fencelines, which provided plenty of opportunities for photographs.

Here is one of them.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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5 Responses to Photo of the Week – February 24, 2010

  1. Mel says:

    Very nice, Chris. I like the way you got the light to play around the edges of the ice and the detail in the wire. Is that a flash or was the sun behind you?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      No flash, just sunlight. I was playing with the light as the clouds moved across the sun. This one was just as the edge of the cloud was uncovering the sun, so the light was still a little filtered by cloud, but not much.

  2. Barb Mikulicz says:

    Several days ago, after joining twitter, I came across your wondeful site. Wow, the pictures alone lure you in to see what else you have in your blogs. And then the information to top it off! I sent your site to our Native Plant leader (WPPC in IL) and she also found lots of info she can share with the group, and for her property. I just wanted to express my appreciation, since I am trying to restore my property. Out here, we are battling buckthorn, so if you have any new information that’s not already out there, please fill me in. Best photos ever!!!

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Wow – thanks for the very kind comments! I’m glad you’re finding the sight useful as well as aesthetically-pleasing!

      There’s a graduate student named Basil Iannone who is doing research on buckthorn at the University of Illinois-Chicago. It looks to me like great work, and you may be able to contact him for information on what he’s finding. From the little I’ve heard, he’s thinking that moist shady conditions favor buckthorn, so anything you can do to reduce leaf litter and reduce soil moisture will probably help slow buckthorn invasion. You should contact him, though, for more information.

      Thanks again – Chris

      • Lauren Umek says:

        Chris and Barb,

        I’m working with Basil Iannone and Liam Heneghan on restoration of buckthorn invaded areas. In addition to the moist and shady conditions buckthorn creates, we also have a lot of data showing that elevated nitrogen, exotic earthworms and other belowground factors facilitate buckthorn invasion (and reinvasion!). We are currently exploring new methods for restoration and would be happy to talk about this more if you’re interested.

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