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Kara Horwitz Revitalization Project at Meadowbrook Farm Senior Seminar Fall 2011 Introduction:

Meadowbrook Farm, located in Abington Township, Pennsylvania, is a 25 acre private estate, garden, and nursery encompassing18 acres of second growth forests. Situated just outside of North Philadelphia in Montgomery County, Meadowbrook falls into the Lowland Piedmont Physiographic Section and lies within the Pennypack Creek Watershed. Prior to development, the site of Meadowbrook was historically a part of Pennock Woods, a large forest system once reflective of the classic Piedmont ecology. Although the second growth forest still maintains characteristics of the traditional mixed deciduous plant communities of its earlier days, rapid fragmentation has led to its existence as a typical woodland edge ecosystem which poses relatively high risks of ecological disturbance. The property of Meadowbrook has both woodlands and a series of demonstration gardens that reflect a range of different habitats found locally in the region. Within the woodlands, there is a small pond near the perimeter of the Meadowbrook property. This man-made pond was established in the 1950s for the purpose of recreational fishing. Following the ponds installation, the site was replanted with both native and exotic species which included a small patch dedicated to a peat bog. However, over the latter part of the century the pond has lacked sufficient attention and has thus been subject to invasive threats, overcrowding of the bog flora, and excessive storm water runoff.

Currently, the area surrounding the pond remains as an overlooked parcel of land. Overgrown with species competing against the beneficial pond flora, it presents a need for reestablishment to a well-functioning pond/riparian edge and bog. Although the area is unkempt, it has great potential due to its nice stand of native plants already present. While undertaking the renovation of the pond area, we aim to both complement and preserve its existing plant composition. Yet, we will also improve the site to particularly highlight the bog section, and to support and sustain more native plant and wildlife species associated with wetland ecosystems. In order to perform the tasks of restoring the pond, we plan to eliminate undesirable plant species and create a larger buffer zone on the riparian edge. With a larger buffer zone, the site will be more equipped to handling the ponds high water levels during storm events. While doing this, we will maintain an aesthetic appeal for garden visitors, and provide a site for educational observation. In addition to enhancing the direct border of the pond, we plan to create and install a bioretention area near the pond for when its water holding capacity does exceed its limits. Presently, there is an overflow outlet from the pond that empties out approximately ___ feet down slope. The space that the overflow deposits into is a mess of underbrush and eroded soil. The landscape there does not adequately capture the excess water, but merely creates a channel for it to run along the side of the property. The water eventually drains to the lowest point of the land, which consequently happens to be the property of a neighboring suburban homeowner. To prevent this from further occurrence, the implementation of a bioretention area will help mitigate the impacts of the ponds overflow outlet. In the form of a rain garden, this area will comprise of all of the appropriate components and plants to capture absorb and infiltrate storm water runoff into the soil. Through the use of these plants, we intend to greater ensure habitats and food

sources for local wildlife as well, and hope that the site will autonomously develop into a healthier ecosystem. Materials and Methods: In preparation for the tasks we set out to achieve, we have organized a detailed strategy explaining the processes of renovation. We then grouped specific steps into larger phases of the overall project. These phases include: accessing the current site conditions; researching the principles of rain garden construction, riparian buffer restoration, and invasive management; planning a renovation strategy and design; implementing the strategy and design; and monitoring the management and development of the site post-renovation. These phases were further divided to deal specifically with the bog area, riparian zone, and rain garden area, separately. In addition to the physical and theoretical phases of the project, collaboration and communication between Meadowbrook staff was also a primary and ongoing task. Before beginning the renovation project we contacted Tom Reber, Grounds Manager of Meadowbrook Farms, and met with him to discuss the potentialities of the site. While addressing its principle needs, he informed us of his general hopes for the site and to what extent Meadowbrook was able to participate in the project. After deliberation and brainstorming, we then re-met with a developed proposal of how to incorporate the needs of the site and both Meadowbrooks ideal and our restorative vision. At this time, we also laid out the framework for the projects scope, and the intended calendar of events. Eventually initial proposals and procedures were decided, and we were granted access to Meadowbrooks property and equipment.

Site Analysis: Once receiving full support from Meadowbrook we began the foremost task of surveying the site. The site assessment was broken down to measure both cultural conditions of the site, and plant and wildlife species present. A primary measure was to track sun exposure. Measurements showed that the eastern portion of the site, the majority of the northeastern section, and small southeastern section had full sun exposure. The western and southern sides were predominantly heavily shaded. Due to these factors, the designated rain garden area would need to be comprised of shade tolerant species and the designated riparian area plants would need to range from species tolerant of anything from full sun to full shade. Another key factor observed was the hydrology of the soil which varied from highly saturated, to moderately saturated, to upland dry soils. These factors gave us clues as to which species to plant in which locations and also revealed the prosperity and diversity of existing species and their dependence upon the conditions in which they were growing. In order to determine the current health and integrity of the landscape, we did an extensive survey and map of the site. After identifying all of the plant species we plugged them into an online database called the Bowmans Hill Plant Stewardship Index Calculator (PSI). This database, which is somewhat similar to the Floristic Quality Assessment, is a tool specifically developed to evaluate the ecological integrity of native plant communities in the Piedmont region of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The PSI works by designating each plant with a certain coefficient of conservatism (CC). These numbers range from 0-10 representing their relative ecological tolerances and their range of abundance in varieties of plant communities. Higher numbers denote a decrease in plants ecological tolerances and an increase in their specificity to more advanced ecological habitats. For instance, invasive plants are given the number zero

because they are tolerant to a wide range of ecological conditions and are found in abundance across many different habitats, whereas endemic plants, of higher numerical values, have less of a capacity for ecological stresses and are found in a more narrow range of undisturbed locales. In addition to assigning species with a figurative number, the resources also gives comments on each species in terms of its nativity, wetland indicator status, optimal growing conditions, and/or other notable factors. Once recording each plant into the database, it formulates an average CC that indicates the sites relative levels of naturalness and disturbances. Below is a copy of our site survey using the Bowmans Hill Stewardship Index Calculator

This list contains 27 plants, of which 67% are native to Pennsylvania Plant Stewardship Index Total Mean C Native Mean C Index 12.26 2.89 4.33

Floristic Quality 18.38

PLANT STEWARDSHIP INDEX Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve P.O. Box 685, New Hope PA 18938 215-862-2924 www.bhtp.org

For restoration purposes, the PSI calculator also allows for continual addition of new species, so as to monitor the sites progress over time. In the results section of the paper there is an adjusted version of the above survey to include both the plants we hope to introduce and eradicate. We have done this to show a hypothetical representation and evaluation of the repaired sites ecological quality.

Research: Plan and Design: Implementation: Monitoring and Further Maintenance: Results: Conclusions: References: