Megan Backhaus went to Eglin AFB to help control erosion and restore longleaf pine ecosystems.

 For part of my service learning hours I volunteered to help plant 150 longleaf pine trees. It was for the erosion control tree planting in Niceville Fl. All the volunteers helped set out 75 bags of pine bark mulch, operated tillers and weed eaters and used shovels and rakes to remove vegetation and roots from 150 planting sites and then we started to plant the 150 longleaf pine trees. We were planting the trees in inactive borrow pits (which are areas where the clay has been mined out for road construction) and also on roads that have been closed due to high erosion and washouts - now known as Erosion Control Sites. During heavy rains, the water flows rapidly through these erosion control areas and carries sediment into the nearby streams. The sediment smothers the stream vegetation, changes the stream flow and reduces critical habitat for the threatened Okaloosa Darter – a protected species of fish found in Eglin streams. So why did we remove the vegetation that is already in place just to plant trees there? As we learn in Chapter 9 forest management helps stabilize soil and also helps prevent erosion. So we planted the trees help to stabilize the soil even deeper than just the groundcover vegetation alone and the planted trees provide for a greater diversity of plants, habitat and a potential food source for wildlife. The tillers and weed eaters remove the nearby vegetation and roots so that the trees do not have to compete for nutrients - once the trees are planted, we do nothing else to help keep them alive. Other than the amendment bags containing mycorrhizal fungi, fertilizer packets and the soil moist that we incorporate into the soil and root ball before we plant the trees. The trees are now on their own and we will go check back up on them in about 6 months and hopefully a little more than half are still alive! Megan Backhaus

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