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Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park

Research Park Notes
Issue 6, February 6, 2001

Welcome to Research Park Notes! Look for tidbits of information on National Environmental Research Park activities, observations, and users every couple of weeks. To provide newsletter input, request additional information, make comments, or add/delete mailing list names, contact the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Area Manager, Pat Parr.

NATURAL RESOURCES AND MANAGEMENT

Three Bend Scenic and Wildlife Refuge - Jim Evans, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) Manager

The management agreement between the Department of Energy and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for the Three Bend Scenic and Wildlife Refuge has now been finalized. The area consists of about 2,920 acres in the southeastern part of the reservation along three bends on the Clinch River: Solway, Freels, and Gallaher bends. TWRA will now have the opportunity to implement their ideas for establishing native grasses, restoring habitats, and enhancing wildlife diversity. Although the area is NOT routinely open to the public, public events allowing access are being planned.

Eagles - Jim Evans, TWRA

During the mid-winter eagle survey on January 11, Jim Evans saw three bald eagles on the reservation. One was on Solway Bend, one at Walker Branch embayment area, and one near Robotics (close to the white cedar site). Evans says they are regularly using the Oak Ridge Reservation throughout winter. Although there is no verification of nesting yet, there are strong suspicions.

Beaver - Warren Webb, Oak Ridge Reservation Wildlife Coordinator

Over the last several years, beaver have been noticeably increasing on the Oak Ridge Reservation, as throughout the Southeast. We don't have an exact number, partly because the locations of dams and dens changes. Our guess is that about 15 family groups use the interior streams and creeks on the reservation; probably another 10 or more use the Clinch River shoreline bordering the reservation (from Breshears Island to Solway Bend). Our general observations over the last few years suggest that this is a rough equilibrium for what the area can support.

For the most part, beaver activities on the Oak Ridge Reservation are beneficial in that they create wildlife habitat for aquatic plants and animals that are not otherwise particularly common on the reservation (e.g., waterfowl and shorebirds, certain amphibians, bulrushes, and cattails). Occasionally, however, activities interfere with plant sites or other infrastructure, such as roads and transmission lines. In these cases, we review the options before proceeding with a removal action. For questions about beaver on the reservation, contact Warren Webb (webbjw@ornl.gov) or TWRA Wildlife Manager Jim Evans (evansjw@ornl.gov).

LAND USE PLANNING

Public Meeting held by Department of Energy (DOE)

Leah Dever, Manager of Oak Ridge Operations for DOE, and her senior managers presented an overview of DOE missions on the Oak Ridge Reservation, future vision of use, and invited input on land use at a public meeting January 30 in Oak Ridge. Over 200 people attended the 4-hour meeting with many interested in use of the reservation for development initiatives (residential and industrial) and many supporting protection of the land base and natural resources for research, future DOE mission needs, and biological preservation. Leah Dever said that she would sign the Boeing Floodplain EA (which she did the next day) and put the Parcel ED-3 EA on hold. Much support (by DOE and the audience) was expressed for the ORNL Facility Revitalization EA.

PARKNET UPDATES

The Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park is one of seven Department of Energy National Environmental Research Parks. The Parks represent seven different ecoregions across the U.S. More information is available on the DOE Research Park network (ParkNet) at http://nerp.esd.ornl.gov/.

Research Update - Nevada Test Site National Environmental Research Park

Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) research is not just underway at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Bob Furlow, Research Park contact for the Nevada Test Site National Environmental Research Park, has provided this update on the work there.

Recent research at the Nevada Desert FACE (Free-Air CO2 Enrichment) Facility, located on the Nevada Test Site, has shown a 2.3-fold increase (p<0.05) in an exotic grass aboveground biomass at elevated atmospheric concentrations of CO2 during an El Ninõ (wet) year. The increase in the exotic grass (Bromus madritensis, ssp. rubens; red brome) was due to a 50% increase in density coupled with a 53% increase in individual plant biomass. Native annuals (Eriogonum, Lepidium and Vulpia) during the same year, however, showed a 42% lower (p<0.01) total density at peak biomass (May) and only a 40% increase (p<0.1) in total aboveground biomass at elevated [CO2] compared to ambient [CO2]. These results exceed previously published predictions for arid ecosystems. However, the following year was a dry year and no germination of annuals occurred in either the elevated [CO2] or ambient [CO2] plots. If sufficient precipitation should occur in the future with increased [CO2], there is a potential for the exotic grass, Bromus, to dominate the Mojave Desert. Because this exotic grass is very similar to the cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) of the Great Basin, it is possible that fire cycles may increase in the Mojave Desert just as they have in the Great Basin. Studies in the Great Basin desert have shown that increases in cheatgrass have increased fire frequency and have converted large expanses of sagebrush-steppe vegetation to a fire-controlled annual grassland. Two years ago, more than 1.7 million acres burned in northern Nevada as a result of exotic grass invasion coupled with environmental conditions. Increases in the fire cycle (from 75-100 years to 4-7 years) would have a significant impact on socio-economic factors in the Mojave Desert. The Nevada Desert FACE Facility will continue to operate and collect data for at least the next 15 years, which should enable us to make better predictions on the response of the Mojave Desert to global climate change.

This research was published in Nature: Smith S. D., T. E. Huxman, S. F. Zitzer, T. N. Charlet, D. C. Housman, J. C. Coleman, L. K. Fenstermaker, J. R. Seemann, and R. S. Nowak. 2000. Elevated CO2 increases productivity and invasive species success in an arid ecosystem. Nature 408:79-82.

Learn more about the Nevada Test Site Research Park at http://www.nv.doe.gov/nts/researchpark.htm.

Effect of Global Climate Change on Invasive Plants in the Mojave Desert

Dr. Stanley Smith (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), Dr. Robert Nowak (University on Nevada, Reno), and Dr. James Coleman (Desert Research Institute). [For more information, please visit the NDFF Web site http://www.unlv.edu/Climate_Change_Research/ or contact Lynn Fenstermaker, NDFF Director, at 702-895-0412 or lynn@dri.edu.]

New Research Park Manager at Idaho National Environmental Research Park

There has been a change in the Research Park Manager for Idaho. The new manager is Richard Marty. The DOE-Idaho Office awarded the Environmental Surveillance, Education, and Research Program to S. M. Stoller Corporation November 2000. This contract had formerly been with the Environmental Science and Research Foundation. Richard can be reached at rmarty@stoller.com.

UPCOMING MEETINGS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF INTEREST

February 12-16, 2001 – First Karst Interest Group Workshop, St. Petersburg, Florida. Contact Zelda Chapman Bailey (zelda_bailey@nps.gov) for more information.

March 21-23, 2001 – Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2001:  A Weed Odyssey, Athens, Georgia. More info: http://www.se-eppc.org/topic.cfm?id=4.

April 4-7, 2001 – Association of Southeastern Biologists Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. More info: http://www.loyno.edu/~asb/.

April 25-29, 2001 – The 16th Annual Symposium of the U.S. Regional Chapter of the International Association of Landscape Ecology (US-IALE), Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. More info: http://www.west.asu.edu/LEML/iale2001.

May 29-June 2, 2001 – American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Boston. Abstracts are due March 8. In addition to its strength in subsurface science and geochemistry, AGU is continuing to expand its focus on biogeoscience and watershed hydrology. Check the Web site for more details: http://www.agu.org/. Also note that Annett Sullivan of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Environmental Sciences Division is convening a special session on water quality of natural systems.

August 5-10, 2001 – The 86th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin. More info: http://esa.sdsc.edu/madison/.

October 3-6, 2001 – Natural Areas Association Annual Conference at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on “Searching for a Natural Balance.” For more information, see http://natareas.org/frame.htm.

November 26-28, 2001, Southern Forest Science Conference Contributions of Forest Research to Sustainable Forestry, Atlanta, Georgia. More info: http://www.southernforestscience.net or call 828/257-4302.

The Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park was designated by the Department of Energy in 1980 and is one of a network of seven National Environmental Research Parks. It is an Oak Ridge National Laboratory User Facility. The Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1989. It is also a unit member of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve and part of the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere (SAMAB) Cooperative. More information on the Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park can be found on the website at:  http://www.esd.ornl.gov/facilities/nerp/.


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