Conceding Victory to Nature

Since moving to Columbia, Missouri in the late 1990s, we have watched as the Parks Department attempted to establish a prairie at Forum Nature Area, on the Hinkson Creek floodplain.  Annual mowing was utilized to retard tree invasion and periodic burns were used to eliminate alien plant species.

Despite these well-intentioned efforts, groves of sycamore, cedar and burr oak continued to invade the grassland; after all, intermittent floods inundate the valley, fueling the growth of water-loving trees and shrubs.  Since grass and wildflowers are more tolerant of drought and wind than are trees, natural prairies tend to develop on sunny, dry, windswept uplands, not on moist floodplains.  Coming to this realization and, no doubt, discouraged by the cost and manpower required to maintain the prairie, the Parks Department recently planted native floodplain trees across the valley floor; within a few years, Forum Nature Area will look more like a bottomland forest preserve than a floodplain grassland.

In our effort to diversify habitats for native wildlife, we humans often ignore the relationship between natural ecosystems and the environmental factors that fostered their development.  It is best that we let nature be the architect of her wild lands, whether they appeal to human visitors or not.  While the construction of well-engineered trails that provide access without disturbing the ecosystem is an acceptable intervention, nature knows best when it comes to the landscape.  Try as we might to mold her realm, Mother Nature will eventually exert her will and proclaim victory.