University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences

Research and land use policy

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is dedicated to encouraging research in ecology, evolution and the natural sciences. The purpose of the Research and Land Use Policy of Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is to balance the conservation of valuable natural habitats with the scientific pursuit of ecological knowledge so as to assure that future generations of researchers will have available to them at least the same ecological resources that are currently available. All of the land at Cedar Creek has been zoned to one of three categories: observation, moderate experimentation, and intensive experimental manipulation.

Areas zoned for observational research are to be used so as to preserve, intact, their organisms and ecosystem processes. Small scale destructive sampling/manipulation is allowed, but it should not be of a scale or frequency to impact population dynamics or ecosystem functioning. Areas zoned observational include the wetlands around Cedar Bog Lake and Beckman Lake Bog and the lakes themselves, the 22 fields that form the LTER Old Field Chronosequence, and Crone’s Knoll.

Intensive experiments are ones that cause significant changes to population densities of one or more species or that significantly impact ecosystem processes. They leave an ecosystem in a state that may be markedly different from either its original state or the state that would be obtained after a period of natural succession. Intensive experimentation includes large-scale tilling or other manipulations of soil, large-scale removal of vegetation, large-scale planting of other species, nitrogen addition, watering, application of pesticides, introduction of novel species, fire, and any other such manipulations. The areas currently zoned for intensive experimentation are Fields A, B, C D, and E, the area where the duck pens and garden plots are (but not the rest of Field 44), and the biodiversity experiment area. Note that all of these areas except Field D were highly human-impacted before experimentation was initiated, and that experimentation is more restricted in Field D, which is a savanna habitat. It is generally expected that all future intensive experimentation will be performed in these areas. Any exceptions to this policy would require extensive and lengthy review.

Moderate experimental manipulations are those of sufficiently low intensity or small spatial extent that they are unlikely to impact areas other than the immediate sites where treatments are applied, that are of short duration, and for which treated sites seem likely to become indistinguishable from non-manipulated areas a few years after cessation of the experiment. All areas of Cedar Creek not mentioned above are zoned for moderate experimental manipulation. Thus, it applies to most wetland habitats, abandoned fields, forests and all other sites. Within this categorization, no more than one fifth of any given field or stand may be used for experiments which modify the nature of that ecosystem, and no more than one-fifth of the stands representing any given type of ecosystem, in total, may be so used or impacted, in total, by any type of research. For example, if 25-30 year old successional fields are undergoing a particular burning frequency, no more than a fifth of any given field would be impacted and no more than a fifth of all 25-30 year old successional fields would be impacted by moderate experimental manipulation. Because oak savanna is a rare ecosystem type in Minnesota and at Cedar Creek, experimental work is more restricted in savanna and undergoes closer scrutiny.

Guidelines may need to be re-evaluated by the Director and Associate Director of Cedar Creek and the Land Use Committee in response to specific requests for research. When deciding whether or not to grant requests for deviations from these guidelines, those making the decision will weigh the potential significance of scientific knowledge that would be gained by the research against the potential cost to future research because of such land use. The ultimate goal is the sustainable use of Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve as a place for experimental and observational ecological research. The final decision on any deviations from these guidelines, in all cases, rests with the Director and the Associate Director, who will seek advice and guidance from the Land Use Committee and the Research Review Board.