KALAMAZOO--Prescribed burns in Western Michigan University's Asylum Lake Preserve are being planned this month to improve the aesthetics and ecology of the natural area.
The burns will take place between March 22 and March 30, depending on weather conditions. They will be conducted by Wildtype Ltd., a professional ecological restoration company based in Mason, Mich.
Cari DeLong, WMU natural areas manager, says WMU hired Wildtype last spring to start removing invasive vegetation in a 15-acre section of the preserve. Since then, numerous brush piles have been lined up around the north and south edges of Asylum Lake, the biggest of the preserve's two lakes.
"Normally, we'd let the brush decay naturally. We're having Wildtype do a prescribed burn because the sheer size and abundance of the brush piles may have unintended consequences on the surrounding habitat," DeLong explains. "Burning is an effective and natural tool for removing the piles from the landscape. Ridding the lake's edge of this biomass will increase the amount of space for native vegetation to colonize, while also opening up more views of the lake."
DeLong says an experienced Wildtype crew will administer the burns after obtaining the necessary permit. Burnings will take place on weekdays and only when weather conditions are favorable.
The brush piles are the remains of once thriving invasive vegetation that was wreaking havoc on the preserve's ecosystem. They are made up mostly of oriental bittersweet vines and woody shrubs such as Japanese honeysuckle, common buckthorn and glossy buckthorn.
"This is an exciting step in the right direction for Asylum Lake Preserve as well as community members who enjoy this natural area," DeLong says. "The removal of invasive vegetation has not only improved the ecology of the area, but also opened up beautiful views of the lake that were previously screened due to the dense undergrowth surrounding the lake's edge."
The 274-acre Asylum Lake Preserve is owned by WMU and managed by the University in conjunction with the communitywide Asylum Lake Policy and Management Council.
The council has been working with Wildtype to ensure that during its restoration work, the company follows the goals outlined in the Asylum Lake Preserve Management plan. Wildtype will continue working this spring and fall on the 15-acre site it has been restoring.