The Moquah Barrens was the final stop for the 160 trans-located sharp-tails, which occurred between 2016 & 2018. Over 50 people were involved in the project putting in over 9000 total hours during the three years trapping took place. 20 radio collars were placed on trans-located birds in 2018, the last year of trapping. The trans-located sharp-tails have continued to be monitored by WSGS with several types of surveys since, looking at dispersal and lek attendance. Additionally a genetic analysis of feather samples was conducted at UW-Madison.
Originally an extensive pine barrens, the Forest Service set aside a mile-square area in the early 1930's as a research site to study natural succession on sandy and sandy loam soils in the absence of fire. Historically, the droughty soils and frequent fires maintained the openness of the barrens.
Today, however, after decades of fire protection, some rather dense forest stands have developed and some of the openings, which were common in the past, are now being filled with woody vegetation.
During prescribed burns on the Moquah Barrens in 2018, a study was carried out to determine what usable elements remained post fire. Vegetation cover had a direct effect on fire temperature with the conclusion of woody cover and brush burning much hotter than grassland or duff. A hot fire results in a very fine ash. The elemental nutrients, once present in the living plants, are now in that fine particle ash. Due to the sandy soil in barrens and prevailing winds, elemental nitrogen, as well as others, are quickly leached from the soil or thinly distributed across the area. Fewer nutrients on the landscape results in poor soil for trees or brush to grow in. A hotter fire may improve barrens by creating a long lasting open landscape via decreased soil nutrient stock, ideal habitat for sharp-tails and other barrens species.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest conducted a prescribed fire on about 1,500 acres of the Moquah Barrens north of Ino Spring of 2021. The project reduced wildfire risk, improved wildlife habitat and promoted native plant species.
Prescribed fire is one of the management techniques that the forest uses to restore the unique pine barrens ecosystem at Moquah Barrens.
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