AJV Environment Highlight : Restored Texas Ecosystems

Native Habitat Brings Balance and Stability

The plot of land called Twelve Hills Nature Center that now hosts all kinds of butterfly, moth and bird species was originally an apartment complex called Twelve Hills. Then it was a partially abandoned apartment complex rife with fires and crime. The city demolished the complex after community efforts but a mess of rebar and concrete remained. Some of it still remains on the trail as a reminder of the lands past life and that native habitat can coexist with urban life.

It took many years of dedicated work by the Twelve Hills founding team and local developers to get the project off the ground. It's transformation is constantly evolving but it is steadily regaining native denizens like plant, bird, insect and reptile species! Relentless volunteers work year around to plant and nurture native species of grasses and wildflowers, eradicate invasive species like lawn grasses and maintain the hiking trail.

The nature serves as an early education hub to get young people invested in environmental restoration and provide stress relief. It also acts as a stormwater retention area Follow them on social media to find out when you can volunteer to get your hands dirty!

When you go make sure to stay on the trail, pick up your dogs poop and keep bikes and other wheels out front on the bike racks. 

Why is having healthy native habitat important? 

A healthy ecosystem relies on a system of checks and balances, and each ecosystem has developed a food chain over thousands of years in order to thrive in that specific location and climate. If one part of that food chain gets out of balance it can cause ripples throughout the chain that can result in invasive species take over, die offs or even extinction of that ecosystem. This can lead to more intense flooding, unhealthy waterways and unmanageable erosion.

 An example of an invasive species success story is Giant Salvinia in Caddo Lake.

The amazonian plant got introduced to the environment by humans in 2004, it choked out other native aquatic plants that housed and fed entire food chains. Those organisms (fish, insects and microorganisms) then had essentially nowhere to live and nothing to eat. It also depleted the oxygen level in the water thereby killing fish and invertebrates that couldn't escape in time. It also made parts of the popular state park impassable for recreational use.

A huge eradication effort was enacted by Uncertain Morley Hudson Weevil Greenhouse in conjunction with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. The invasive plant had to be sprayed with herbicide and interestingly, a weevil was introduced to consume the plant. Those efforts plus a couple of good freezes have beaten the giant salvinia back to manageable levels.