Glades are small, thin-soiled, rocky clearings in timbered areas, typically found in the south- and west-facing slopes. They are typically identified by the type of bedrock on which they lie, with most glades in Missouri being igneous and dolomite glades. Because of the rocky exposures and sun exposure, glades experience near desert conditions during some parts of the year. Accordingly, glade plants are resistant to drought and sunlight, especially compared to neighboring forest species. The thin soil on steep slopes prevents trees from growing in glade areas, so most flora are grasses, sedges, and wildflowers. Additionally, glades support a wide range of fauna, including lizards and the federally endangered bladderpod, and are also prized by birders. Overall, glades are valuable island ecosystems that boost biodiversity.
Among Missourians, glades were once thought of as useless, but now people are starting to appreciate their value. Preserving glade habitats in Missouri is one way of conserving biodiversity globally. Some of the flora and fauna that live on Missouri glades include: eastern collared lizards, tarantulas, prickly pear cactus, and the federally endangered bladderpod all live on Missouri glades (Radford).
Because of the implementation of fire suppression, many glades in Missouri have been covered in forest. This means that invasive Eastern Red Cedar populations are not controlled by naturally occurring fires. When trees invade glades, they block sunlight from the plants that crave it, which leads to loss of habitat for the animals that relied on those plants. Quarrying and over-grazing also contribute to damage to glades.
Despite the damage to glades, there have been efforts to restore them. The general process of restoration consists of killing the invasive Cedar trees and allowing them to dry on the ground for up to a year. After that, prescribed burning is used to clear invasive species as well as to rejuvenate native plants. Both private landowners and public conservation areas have seen successful in restoring the glades. At Tyson Research Center, there are also studies being performed to determine the most effective means of restoring glades based on comparisons of glade area and contact area with neighboring forests.
Radford, Tricia. “Uncovering a Gem.” Missouri Conservationist 2 Oct. 2006 : 22-27. Web.
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