Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 72.17
Liaison Toby Cain
Submission Date March 1, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Luther College
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Molly McNicoll
Assistant Professor in Biology and Natural Area Lands Manager
Biology
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance?:
Yes

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

Of the college's nearly 800 acres outside of central campus, nearly 700 acres are non-agricultural natural areas. Within this, several permanently designated protected areas exist: Lionberger Environmental Preserve (180 acres), Emergency Watershed Protection areas (123 acres, est. 2012), Weigle-Roslien Tract (10 acres, est. 2014) that protect oak-hickory woodland, riparian, grassland, and maple-baswood forest habitats for biodiversity preservation, permanent conservation, and environmental education. Nearly 6 acres of grassland has been protected with CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) status, re-enrolled in 2013. Protection and management of the remainder of Luther's natural areas are guided by the Land Stewardship Plan.


Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify environmentally sensitive areas on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or environmentally sensitive areas (including most recent year assessed) and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

Luther biology faculty (ecologists, botanists, entomologists, ornithologists, etc.) have conducted assessments of Luther's natural areas since the natural areas were first purchased. These assessments were conducted along with students as part of classroom work and research. Assessment and monitoring continues, especially as any new restoration projects or land management are proposed.


A brief description of identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

Native species on the natural areas include restored tallgrass and sand prairies, oak savanna and woodlands, oak-hickory forests, bottomland (floodplain) forests and wetlands along the Upper Iowa River. Significantly, a critically endangered species, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, was discovered to inhabit Anderson Prairie at Luther College in 2017. Anderson Prairie was established over 30 years ago. By 2011, students and faculty had identified 118 species of plants on the prairie, including 71 native prairie species. “It was a very successful prairie reconstruction project. It’s a diverse area that supports different species of butterflies, as well as beetles not found in other places in Iowa,” said Kirk Larson, Luther College Biology Professor. He added based on a recent monarch census, Anderson Prairie is producing 1,050 monarch butterflies each year.

The Prairie also is home to the Rusty Patched bumble bee, which can be found on the endangered species list. “The prairie supports biodiversity and provides educational opportunities in addition to important ecosystem services,” he said.

Iowa has lost over 99.9% of its prairies: plowed, developed, and paved. To combat this loss of our natural heritage, conservation biologists and restoration ecologists began the painstaking process of learning to reconstruct the functions and values of prairies. Anderson Prairie is one such effort at prairie reconstruction. Luther has a long history of prairie restoration and using the process in our classes; the original section of Anderson was planted to prairie to stop erosion from water runoff; the remaining section of Anderson was planted to improve the native diversity for its classroom and research use.

Anderson Prairie provides significant infiltration and water quality improvement to water draining from Ridge Road, Venneheim, surrounding housing development and farm fields. Other ecosystem services provided by reconstructed prairies include carbon sequestration and improved air quality. Anderson Prairie plays a significant role in improving local biodiversity. For example, over 200 migrant monarch butterflies were banded in a two hour period in September, 2016. At least 5 native species recorded in Anderson Prairie have not been recorded elsewhere in the state. The prairie is densely populated by migratory birds for nesting and feeding habitat.


A brief description of plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

Luther's natural areas are an outdoor classroom and research site for students and community members. Sustainable management and restoration of Luther's natural areas is overseen and implemented by a broad group on campus, including facilities, several academic departments (including biology and environmental studies), a natural areas land manager, student land stewardship interns, a land use committee (advisory), and students/faculty/staff from across campus. A general guidance document for the natural areas is provided in Land Stewardship Plan.

In addition, new restorations and land management are developed for each part of Luther's natural areas to promote the ideals of: student education, promoting healthy native ecosystems, and creating a connection between students and natural areas.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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