Arboretum Leaflets

Research conducted at the Arboretum (or relevant to the Arboretum's mission) often results in long reports or technical publications for scientific readers. The aim of these Arboretum Leaflets is to summarize the most important findings for a much broader audience. Among the intended readers are prospective undergraduate and graduate students who want to come to UW–Madison, guides who offer field trips to the Arboretum, students who want to undertake mentored research, Friends of the Arboretum, and the general public.


Arboretum Leaflets #15–36

Zedler, J.B. 2014. A Wetland Ethic? Leaflet 36.

Wetlands are important and valuable, yet vulnerable to many environmental impacts. Protection of their biodiversity and ecosystem services would benefit from adoption and evolution of a wetland ethic, as recommended in Leaflet 36.

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Zedler, J.B. 2014. What Do Frogs Do All Day? Leaflet 35.

When amphibian expert Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse visited the Arboretum, she wondered how many ways frogs contribute to ecosystem services. So when two other amphibian experts in New Hampshire published the answer, she forwarded their paper (Hocking and Babbitt 2014). Leaflet 35 summarizes what frogs (and their near relatives) do all day.

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Zedler, J.B. 2014. Arboretum Wetlands: Hidden Value in Plain Sight. Leaflet 34.

Relative to uplands, the Arboretum has a high proportion of wetland area, now worth more than ever, according to updated estimates just published by the renowned ecological economist, Robert Costanza. Leaflet 34 describes the Arboretum's diverse types of wetlands, their diverse ecosystem services, and where you can see them.

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Zedler, J.B., editor. 2014. Adaptive restoration of a former wet meadow. Leaflet 33.

Restoration of the 12-acre Teal Pond Wetland (just east of Curtis Prairie) is underway, even though it is not entirely clear how to complete what we have begun. An adaptive restoration approach is being used to “learn while restoring” sedge meadow and other native vegetation. Among the questions being addressed are: What should be the restoration target? How does hand-cutting compare to brush mowing? Which trees remained after brush mowing and which should be left in place? How should we achieve a diverse native understory that is both diverse and invasion-resistant? How should invasive plants be managed? What are the next research priorities?

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Zedler, P.H. 2014. Restoring the Psychozoic Era, replacing the Anthropocene. Arboretum Leaflet 32.

Have humans so modified the earth that we are living in a new era, and if so, what should we call it? Recent writers suggest the "Anthropocene," but over a century ago, Wisconsin geologist T.C. Chamberlain wrote that humans had created a new geological era, the "Psychozoic."

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Rojas-Viada, I. and J.B. Zedler. 2014. Arboretum research helps resolve the "invasive species debate." Arboretum Leaflet 31.

Isabel Rojas-Viada (M.S., UW–Madison, 2013) reviewed debates about whether invasive species do or don't affect resident species diversity. Arguments arose because sometimes debaters used different measures of "effect," and sometimes they studied very different invaders. In her study of the aggressive reed canary grass (RCG) in Arboretum and other local wetlands, Rojas-Viada found that RCG reduced diversity by half where it invaded sedge meadows—a pattern for entire study sites as well as for the four plot sizes she compared.

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Zedler. 2013. How visiting the Arboretum can help resolve ecological debates. Arboretum Leaflet 30.

Ecologists have debated various topics over the decades, and the Arboretum serves an important role in the resolution of arguments. Vegetation patterns in Curtis Prairie and other habitats and our many efforts to conserve diversity show that Nature can support multiple viewpoints and clearer definitions of terms can aid communication.

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Zedler. 2013. Coon Valley and Tijuana Estuary: Lessons for Restoration. Arboretum Leaflet 29.

Aldo Leopold and colleagues showed great insight in taking a watershed approach to restore Coon Valley, Wisconsin, in 1933. Much later efforts in a southern California coastal wetland faced similar issues. In both, Coon Valley and Tijuana Estuary, good conservation has been based on good basic science.

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Zedler. 2013. How ponded cattail marshes can export phosphorus: A conceptual model. Arboretum Leaflet 28.

This addendum to Leaflet #27 illustrates how ponding and cattails can interact to reduce the wetland service of phosphorus removal. Recent research and information already in the literature support this conceptual model.

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Zedler. 2013. How ponded runoff and invasive cattails reduced wetland ecosystem services in three experimental wetlands. Arboretum Leaflet 27.

An interdisciplinary team of six researchers from UW-Madison assessed six ecosystem services in three experimental wetlands at the Arboretum; their findings greatly advance understanding of the effects of hydroperiod (water conditions) and invasive cattails on (1) plant productivity, (2) diversity support, (3) water quality improvement, (4) soil stabilization, (5) flow attenuation, and (6) stormwater retention. Each finding leads to advice for wetland and stormwater managers.

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Zedler. 2012. Eco-Cultural Restoration At Ho-Nee-Um Pond. Arboretum Leaflet 25.

Eight of the Arboretum’s diverse ecosystems are readily accessible in the area surrounding Ho-Nee-Um Pond. These are: coldwater springs, fen, groundwater seepages, cottonwood bottomland, oak savanna, woodland, and an excavated pond and shoreline. Of special significance are the 2 springs that flow year-round. These are 2 of only 8 historical springs that still feed Lake Wingra; another 22 have dried up. Here, steps away from a busy street, visitors can still see where groundwater becomes surface water.

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July 2012 Brochure

With funding from the Morgridge Center For Public Service Service Learning Program, volunteers sampled stormwater flowing through Curtis Prairie and contributed to a leaflet that suggests how upstream neighbors could release cleaner water that would help sustain native plants in Curtis Prairie.

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Zedler. 2012. A Self-Guided Walk through Curtis Prairie. Arboretum Leaflet 24.

Rainfall and melting snow used to infiltrate into the ground before reaching the Arboretum. Today, urban "hardscapes" discharge excess water and nutrients through Curtis Pond and along the core of Curtis Prairie. About a fourth of Curtis Prairie's 72 acres now support wetland soil and vegetation, both of which remove contaminants that would otherwise flow toward Lake Wingra. We invite you to print this self-guided tour, follow the path of stormwater, and view the Curtis Prairie Wetland. Go with the flow!

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Zedler. 2011. Unintended Negative Impacts of Construction Projects In The Arboretum. Arboretum Leaflet 23.

Construction projects are often necessary to fix problems that arise on site (e.g., a clogged culvert and flooded fire lane) or that result from the Arboretum’s low-lying position in an urban landscape (e.g., increased stormwater inflows that pollute wetlands and lakes). But in the process of fixing problems, construction activities often cause unintended negative impacts. Having a mission to conserve and restore its lands does not ensure that construction projects will comply with Arboretum ideals.

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Leaflet 23 References (pdf - 93 KB)

Zedler. 2010. Tussock Sedge - A Restoration Superplant? Arboretum Leaflet 22.

Arboretum research suggests that tussock sedge (Carex stricta) performs many ecological functions very well. Once widespread and diverse within the Arboretum and Wisconsin, this plant is easy to grow and transplant, spreads rapidly, supports other species, tolerates nutrient-rich soil, and stores carbon. Learn how to grow this "superplant."

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Leaflet 22 References (pdf - 76 KB)


Zedler. 2010. Restoration Targets are Changing. Arboretum Leaflet 21.

This comparison of early ideas, current activities, and future targets was Joy Zedler's plenary talk at the second annual conference of the Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration, held at the Arboretum on April 9, 2010.

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Leaflet 21 References (pdf - 93 KB)

Zedler, P. and J. B. Zedler. 2009. Arboretum 75th Anniversary Seminar. Arboretum Leaflet 19.

In celebration of the Arboretum's 75th anniversary, Joy and Paul Zedler convened a graduate seminar class and hosted guest speakers (mostly electronically), who shared their thoughts about where Restoration Ecology might be headed in the next 75 years.

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Wegener, M. and J. B. Zedler. 2009. Taking Stock. Arboretum Leaflet 18.

The Arboretum's "natural capital" includes a 1200-acre reserve in Madison that was set aside for ecosystem restoration, research and teaching, plus 11 outlying properties that serve as reference sites for restoration activities. This compilation of maps and aerial photos illustrates the Madison core property as well as the challenge the Arboretum faces in restoring native communities in its urban setting.

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Carpenter, Q. and J. B. Zedler. 2008. Demystifying Fens. Arboretum Leaflet 17.

In Wisconsin, fens are considered special because this type of wetland is usually small but diverse in plant species. Separating fens from sedge meadows and wet prairies can be tricky, however. Our local expert, Dr. Quentin Carpenter, helps demystify this important type of wetland ecosystem.

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Zedler, J.B., editor. Curtis Praire: 75-year old restoration research site. Arboretum Leaflet 16.

The Arboretum's Curtis Prairie is often revered for being restored nearly 75 years ago, but Leaflet 16 shows that it also has a long history of adaptive restoration--the testing of alternative approaches in field experiments and subsequent use of knowledge to improve restoration efforts. Research underway aims to document and solve contemporary problems with invasive plants (especially reed canary grass and gray dogwood).

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Zedler, J. B., editor. The amazing diversity of root forms among native wetland plants. Arboretum Leaflet 15

An ambitious experiment in summer 2007 compared the growth of 40 native wetland plants. Many students took advantage of the project to produce class reports on the diversity of patterns of root and shoot growth (see the gallery of photos of washed roots). In addition, the experiment tested the effect of adding topsoil to pots.
Most species produced more shoot biomass and less root biomass with topsoil added. Thus, topsoil addition is not recommended for planting natives in stormwater channels where flowing water would wash away top-heavy plants.

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Arboretum Leaflets #8–14
Arboretum Leaflets #1–7