Thursday, June 28, 2012

Desiccated

We bailed into the big duallie truck at 5:30 this morning, headed straight to the glade to finish the sampling exercise we started last week. We had three 50m. transects (30 quadrats each transect) to go. Sampling on this glade, these transects, has occurred every year post prescribed fire since 1993.

As the truck roared into motion, the loud radio blared all the panicky heat warnings we've heard all week: "Do not go outside unless you absolutely have to! Use your air conditioning and your fan! Check on your neighbors and relatives! Make sure you stay hydrated! Bring in pets!" Oh, brother, it is not that hot outside, with average air temperatures 101 late this afternoon and humidities in the 20s. Geez, just be sensible in the heat. I don't recall a single heat advisory the entire time I lived in New Orleans with average summer temperatures much hotter than this (conversely, when the December temperatures plummeted to 40, there were "cold advisories" issued). Our transects, by the way, are located on exposed south and east facing slopes, a massive glade landscape, a really great spot with terrific glade flora. Work must be accomplished regardless of the weather, which is why we set out so early. We worked in hotter conditions last July.


Every footfall crunched the crisp glade vegetation into little bits--the fall bloomers, the spring bloomers, the deep rooted perennial prairie grasses. "My quadrat is toast," muttered my former boss while trying to determine a tiny shriveled sprig of Linum sulcatum. Nevertheless, we've sampled in drier conditions in previous years, so our desiccated little quadrats still have the same cover values as they would if the plants were fully hydrated and plump and luscious like they should be in June. Sampling in drought is old hat to us now.



But Ozark glade flora is adapted to dry conditions, perhaps not to this degree, but the asters (esp. Aster laevis) and Liatris cylindracea are as erect and green as they were in May. You can still pick out diagnostic traits of the grasses (Aristida purpurascens isn't batting an eye to this weather). Nevertheless, I do hope we have a spell of rain soon, with rumors coming out that some rivers are barely floatable. If I can't be on an Ozark river in a canoe, there is no other place I'd rather be than peering into a sampling frame in a high quality Ozark landscape. I could have stayed out there all day.


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