Willow in the Wet. Always??

Willow fascines for habitat restoration in a semi-arid and sub-humid boreal forest ecosystem. Does it work?

Over my many years working in the forestlands of Canada I learned that willow (Salix spp.) is a shrubby plant that is associated with wetlands. In the context of my management paradigms, this is a correct and reliable assertion, often supported by wet feet before the end of the day.

Working in northwestern Saskatchewan, in a region dominated by undulating topography, sandy soil, and annual rainfall in the order of 400 to 500 millimeters, my understanding of this important plant presence and dominance was challenged. What I saw was what appeared to be an omnipresent and prolific performing willow, growing in upper and crest of slope areas, in sub-xeric soil moisture conditions and on drastically disturbed sites after industrial development.

Willow bushes growing at the edge

Figure 1. Willow bushes growing at the edge of a drastically disturbed site at the crest of a slope, semi-arid and sub-humid climate

Perhaps, many environmental mitigation solutions are before our eyes? Could they become visible when we are prepared to risk that the understood may be misunderstood? That was the case for me. Upon further investigation and reflection, I realized that properly applied, I could prescribe willow fascines to support soil stability in eroding areas, be it erosion from water or wind. Yes, effectively apply the fascine strategy in a sub-xeric ecosystem, and expect them to live. So, I did just that, and it worked (Figure 2).

And this is why I still go to the field. So much to learn, so little time to learn it!!

 Established willow fascine application

Figure 2. Established willow fascine application in a pure sand microsite, semi-arid, and sub-humid climate.