A patch of remnant prairie in Fish Creek Provincial Park. Species pictured include dogbane, northern bedstraw, and shrubby potentilla.

A seedling of the native flowers cutleaf anemone (Anemone multifida)

As you may have read in our announcement post, an exciting prairie restoration project is occurring this summer on the St. Mary’s campus! But what is prairie restoration exactly, and why are we doing it?

Prairie restoration, a discipline that has existed formally in North America since 1936, is the practice of working with land which, though agriculture, oil and gas development, or residential and transportation infrastructure, has been downgraded from a native prairie ecosystem to an area high in non-native and invasive plant species.

The loss of native plant species has consequences for the entire ecosystem, affecting the soil quality as well as the diversity of native species of birds and insects that inhabit the area. Prairie restoration is important at St. Mary’s University because the campus is surrounded by Fish Creek Provincial Park, home to almost 200 sandgrass prairie fragments. Creating a more natural prairie ecosystem at St. Mary’s University can protect these remnant patches from invasive species, so that they too do not become downgraded. Restoration work can also help to counteract droughts brought on by climate change, by increasing soil water retention.

Hopefully this has helped explain the intent and impact of prairie restoration at StMU. Next week we will provide more information about how we are demonstrating and going about this restoration on campus!

Prickly rose (Rosa acicularis) on the StMU campus restoration site.