Land trust staff and local experts team up to survey plants and animals at Whooping Hollow Woods
Initial land protection is just the beginning of NWALT’s work to preserve and maintain critical natural landscapes in our region. Once a property is conserved in writing, ongoing stewardship starts with a baseline documentation of the condition of the property and continues with annual monitoring and partnering to care for the property.
Biomonitoring is a critical aspect of our land stewardship program. Species inventories are used to inform management of the property in an effort to retain biodiversity and to provide the highest quality habitat for wildlife – and the greatest benefit for people.
Whooping Hollow Woods is a 577-acre preserve in Carroll County, and is the largest NWALT-conserved property to date. Permanently protected in 2011, the property is a convergence of multiple conservation values, including wildlife habitat, cultural heritage, scenic views, and water quality. Mixed hardwood forests interspersed with open hillside pastures provide sweeping vistas of the surrounding Ozarks countryside.
NWALT staff and volunteer surveyors made a trip to Whooping Hollow Woods to document species of plants and animals that reside there. Joe Neal, NWALT Elder, retired biologist and local Ornithologist, joined to survey birds, along with Lorraine Heartfield, retired environmental consultant and NWALT board member, as well as Sonny Guraedy, in whose family the property has belonged for over 100 years.
The survey documented a rich diversity of plants and animals, including birds like the yellow-billed cuckoo, ovenbird, Louisiana water thrush, and yellow-throated vireo. Damselfly nymphs and crayfish were observed in steams, indicating good water quality, and deep under a low rock overhang bordering a stream, two species of salamanders were documented, underscoring the hidden biodiversity of our Ozark forest habitats.
A wide array of undisturbed habitat on the property creates an environment where such a rich diversity of organisms can thrive. For example, small intermittent streams flanked by mossy bluffs and rock outcroppings are nestled between steep slopes that lead to more dry, upland oak forests along the ridges. Such a variation in habitat is increasingly important as climate change places additional stress on the ecosystem and wildlife.
This recent survey confirmed the value of such pristine Ozark forests for wildlife habitat and water quality. Thankfully, Whooping Hollow Woods is protected and will forever provide a home to many species. Future surveys will take place to help us better understand and steward this incredible preserve.