Monday, November 17, 2008

“Donut” anyone?

On a recent dive at the Terry’s Point restoration site, I was surprised to observe very small “bald spots” at the center of the larger patches indicating that we may be observing the initiation of what I call “donuts”. In this case, there is still a dense covering of rhizomes, but there are few if any shoots in this open area leading me to believe that some process may be limiting shoot recruitment here.

At many natural meadows in high energy areas we observe distinct patterns including rings, crescents or C-shaped formations scattered throughout the bed. In fact, this distinctive signature helps us to distinguish grass from macroalgae beds in aerial photos in the Sound and Gardiners Bay. Despite the fact that these forms are common, it is not really clear how and when they form.

I always assumed that these started off as circular patches that eventually lose their centers. In some cases there may be a breach of the ring leading to the formation of a “C” or similar. However, since we have not observed this, I just don’t know if this is the process.

Continued observations at Terry’s may allow us to follow this progression. Overall, the grass here is flourishing and the early summer plantings that Steve, Kim and Ali did this year, adjacent to the large patches are doing REALLY well, so there is no reason to think that the grass is under stress here. In fact, I couldn’t be happier with the project.

Only time will tell whether this is beginning of a natural meadow-shaping process. All we can do is sit back and let nature take its course. In the mean time we will continue to plant shoots in the adjacent rocky areas to ensure that this meadow expands and flourishes. I wish all of our sites were doing so well!


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