The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Oklahoma City Zoo recently formed a legacy conservation partnership to support scientific research conducted at TNC preserves in Oklahoma. The Zoo established a science and research fund with TNC that the Zoo will contribute to annually over the next five years. Funds for the partnership are primarily generated from the Oklahoma Zoological Society and the sale of ZOOfriends’ memberships.
“Oklahoma is a beautiful, unique state that is home to an amazing array of life. Its land and waters must be protected for all Oklahomans to thrive,” said Dr. Dwight Lawson, Zoo executive director/CEO. “The Nature Conservancy’s preserves not only provide magnificent landscapes for us to enjoy, they also contribute to flood control, stabilizing our climate and safeguarding water resources for our thirsty state.”
Currently, the fund is helping a biology professor from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) conduct a baseline species richness inventory of mammals at TNC’s Oka’ Yanahli Preserve near Ada. Established in 2011, the preserve protects nearly 3,600 acres of native prairie along the Blue River. The Blue River basin supports an array of animal and plant species, and is also an essential water resource for agricultural activity in the area and for the city of Durant. To restore and maintain this section of native prairie, species inventories like this survey of mammals are needed.The fund is also helping another UCO biology professor assess the frequency, intensity and seasonality of historic fires at two preserves in southern Oklahoma—the Boehler Seeps and Sandhills Preserve, and the new Hottonia Bottoms Preserve. Fire plays a critical role in the health of Oklahoma’s ecosystems. For prairies, fires slow down the invasion of trees, which shade out native prairie plants. Fire is also important for speeding up decomposition and returning nutrients to the soil. TNC uses carefully planned and controlled “prescribed” burning to restore and maintain native vegetation on some of its preserves. Scientific knowledge of an area’s fire history is important for guiding and planning prescribed burning.
“We’re thrilled to partner with the Oklahoma City Zoo and deeply appreciate their support of The Conservancy’s work in Oklahoma,” said Mike Fuhr, TNC of Oklahoma state director. “Conserving nature is central to both our missions. Working together we can raise awareness of how important it is to conserve Oklahoma’s native habitats and help ensure their protection for generations to come.”
TNC and the Zoo are also teaming up on field days where Zoo staff members volunteer their time to help TNC with important projects that require multiple hands, such as species surveys and cleanups.
Since 1986, TNC has worked to conserve Oklahoma’s magnificent landscapes and unique biodiversity totaling over 100,000 acres. Learn more by visiting nature.org/oklahoma.
Photo: TNC – Mike Fuhr