Important Bird Areas

Warren Prairie Natural Area

Arkansas

Co-owned by the Arkansas Natural
Heritage Commission (AHNC) and The Nature Conservancy, Warren Prairie Natural
Area (4,660 acres; the ANHC owns fee title or conservation easements on all but
40 acres) is in Bradley and Drew counties. It is a mosaic of salt slick
barrens, saline barrens, Delta post oak flatwoods, mound woodlands, saline
marsh, pine woodlands, and bottomland hardwood forest communities.
Soils
containing naturally high amounts of sodium and magnesium salts account for the
sparse and irregular distribution of trees and the resultant dominance of
grasses and other herbaceous vegetation. These tree-less barrens, which are
often incorrectly referred to as prairies, are home to a variety of rare plants
and animals. In fact, the natural area provides critical habitat for the state’s
largest population of the federally threatened plant Geocarpon minimum in the barrens and associated woodlands.

Ornithological Summary

The site supports over three-fourths of the Henslow’s
Sparrows that are known to winter in Arkansas. The density of Henslow’s Sparrow
at Warren Prairie is similar to what is observed in frequently burned long leaf
pine savanna, which is considered by many to be the species’ primary winter
habitat. In October of 2010, the ANHC began repatriation of a breeding population
of the federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. To repopulate the area,
birds were translocated from populations in Arkansas and Louisiana. Currently,
the area is home to about 20 birds and 7 breeding pairs. Oak-pine woodlands are
also home to Red-headed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Northern
Bobwhite, Prairie Warblers, Bachman’s Sparrows, and Rusty Blackbirds.

Conservation Issues

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Fire suppression prior to ANHC ownership favored woody
plants over herbaceous vegetation, adversely affecting many species. Since
acquisition, the ANHC has been using prescribed burning and thinning to successfully
restore the habitat to a more historical structure and species composition. Hydrology
is easily disrupted by excessive soil disturbance caused by illegally entering
off-road vehicles, and even by the installation of roads and fire breaks
required for prescribed burns. The need for new fire breaks will decrease as the
ANHC’s prescribed burning program gradually reduces the fuel load and thus the
intensity of burns, allowing for larger burn units.

Ownership

WPNA is part of the System of Natural Areas owned and managed by ANHC for the purpose of protecting the state?s rare plants, animals, and natural communities. Land owned at WPNA by TNC (41 ac) is managed under the same ecological philosophy. ANHC and TNC coordinate all ecological management activities.

Habitat

Ecologically the natural area is a mosaic of salt slick barrens, saline barrens, Delta post oak flatwoods, mound woodlands, saline marsh, marginal pine woodlands and bottomland hardwood forest communities. The majority of the WPNA is situated within a working landscape composed of managed timberlands, hay meadows, and scattered housing.

Land Use

WPNA is part of the System of Natural Areas owned and managed by ANHC for the purpose of protecting the state?s rare plants, animals, and natural communities. Land owned at WPNA by TNC is managed under the same ecological philosophy. ANHC and TNC coordinate all ecological management activities.