The future of the wetlands, savannas, and grasslands on which cranes depend requires a long-term commitment to land stewardship. To each of our projects, we bring extensive experience with managing fire, grazing, invasive species, erosion, and other factors to benefit cranes and the wealth of other species that depend on these systems.
Wetlands, grassland, and savannas depend upon fire to remove encroaching shrubs and matted grasses that inhibit young plant growth. In Wisconsin, the International Crane Foundation conducts prescribed fires to manage the native grasslands that harbor a rich diversity of plants and animals.
At Zhalong National Nature Reserve in China and Muraviovka Park in Russia, the problem is uncontrolled fires that sweep across wetlands that harbor breeding Red-crowned and White-naped Cranes, killing eggs and young birds. In these settings, we focus on water management and train local mangers to burn firebreaks and small patch fires to prevent larger fires from spreading.
Grazing by native herbivores or livestock maintains the health of native grasslands, and improves access to the underground tubers preferred by cranes and other waterbirds. But over-grazing, especially by cattle, leads to trampled nests and loss of nesting cover, such as for Grey-Crowned Cranes in East Africa. Here, we use community outreach and “wetland watch” groups to promote alternative land stewardship.
Invasive species are the bane of crane conservation on five continents. At Tram Chim National Park in Vietnam, the International Crane Foundation and our colleagues are developing an ecologically sound, cost-effective alternative herbicide, using a concentrated salt solution to kill invasive Mimosa shrubs. At other sites, we are experimenting with other strategies, including hiring local community members to remove Mimosa and helping them to invest their income in community-development projects.