This has been a collaboration with several of my Chicago Wilderness colleagues. Assuming all goes well it'll go into a book where the authors from around the world look at cities from the perspective of resilience theory. I was happy to include a brief description of our "100 Sites for 100 years project", overseen by the incomparable Lauren Umek of DePaul and Northwestern, and with me and Dr David Wise from UIC as the co-PIs.
Funded by the The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the ‘100 Sites’ project identifies a unique collaborative effort between CW coalition to move toward realizing its vision of increasing the number of accessible, interconnected, restored, diverse and healthy ecosystems in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. This project capitalizes on the general best management practices of the region’s land managers by including multiple natural areas subject to similar management and time frames in a replicated experiment in order to address two main questions that relate to current outcomes of restoration efforts: How effective are current management practices for restoring and conserving biodiversity? How effective are current management practices for rehabilitating key ecosystem processes? In addition, this program has prepared the groundwork for addressing questions into the future. It has established sites that will be maintained at current management regimes for many years (maybe not a hundred, but that's our idealistic goal), with the goal of uncovering long-term trends in management outcomes that will appear with climate change and changing influences of urbanization.
To examine biodiversity and a suite of ecosystem processes associated with restoration management, the project:
1. Established over 100 one-hectare long-term study plots in four of the CW counties (See Fig 3). The sites are representative woodland, savanna and prairie habitats, and have been selected along gradients of management effort, from those that are highly degraded, usually due to impacts of invasive species, to mature restoration sites that have been managed for several years. We have also included sites that represent the “highest quality/pristine” habitats in the region as well as sites of particular interest to county land managers. Since it arranges ongoing management efforts in an explicit experimental design, the 100 Sites Project will provide ongoing assistance to adaptive management of the region's biodiversity.
2. Data gathered at these sites (including vegetation, nutrient availability, earthworms, soil/litter arthropods, pollinators, and birds) will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of biodiversity management practices, allowing us to validate (where appropriate), and improve and invent (where necessary), the most effective restoration practices for the Chicago region.
3. A secondary goal of this project is to attract regional researchers and graduate students to conduct ecological studies locally. Similar to the structure of the Chicago Wilderness Alliance, collaboration and diversity of ecological researchers, all focusing on a common question of the impacts of restoration on ecosystem properties will contribute to the long term scope and sustainability of the project.