• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
Balcones Canyonlands Preserve is restoring the past and planting the future.

Project Area

View of Balcones Canyonlands Preserve
The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) is a system of preserves of over 30,000 acres that provides habitat for endangered and rare songbirds, karst invertebrates, plants, and aquatic salamanders. The BCP lies along the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau and is characterized by shallow soils over Cretaceous limestone plateaus separated by steep canyons covered primarily with Ashe juniper-oak forests. Most of the BCP forests are recovering from a history of logging and overgrazing, including the area around the Vireo Preserve, a 214-acre tract within the BCP.

Management Goals

Aerial photo of Vireo Preserve

Using our knowledge of ecological history, promote resilient and healthy ecosystems in response to past and predicted future conditions:

  • Protect Golden-cheeked Warbler refugia
  • Protect and build soils
  • Increase native plant structural and species diversity
  • Promote water retention (e.g., installing berms and swales on contour to capture, spread, and sink water) on dry, degraded hillsides to “jumpstart” reforestation
  • Manage energy flows (e.g., wind screens)
  • Develop pollinator alleys that connect plant guilds and groves
  • Plant drought-tolerant species that can provide shade and improve soil conditions for more mesic species

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Increasing number of days over 100 degrees F.
Heavy rainfall/soil loss/degraded soils
Invasive plants
Human-caused wildfire
Phenology shifts, affecting plant recruitment
Increases in oak wilt and other pathogen impacts
Native tree, shrub mortality

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


Changes to phenology/survivorship/recruitment likely to impact habitat
Hotter/drier + rain deluges
Loss of seedbank leading to reduction in seed abundance and viability
Difficulty in establishing juniper from seed
Soil resources more at risk


Die-off provides nurse tree locations
Increased die off provides opportunity for mulch
Mulch from shaded fuel breaks
Shaded fuel breaks increase public education/appreciation
Funding from carbon sequestration

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Ashe juniper-oak forests
Protecting soils and mycorrhizal networks, increasing soil organic matter, and reforestation
Protecting existing old-growth Ashe juniper-oak forests, including above- and belowground facilitative processes (e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWOqeyPIVRo).
Promoting mesic conditions by providing shade and capturing, spreading, and sinking rainfall (e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wETVPEkHso&feature=youtu.be)
Ashe juniper-oak forests
Plant drought-tolerant species in xeric sites to provide shade and improve soil for more mesic species
Ashe juniper-oak forests
Reforesting degraded landscapes and promoting connectivity with other forests and protected areas
Ashe juniper-oak forests
Increasing native plant and structural diversity (soil, ground cover, shrub cover, canopy)
Protecting native seed banks and promoting habitat for pollinators


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Gather baseline data on edaphic conditions in healthy forests, including the role of mycorrhizal networks in sequestering and transporting carbon and water through the forest community.
Understand the potential for forests to ameliorate effects of climate change.
Understand the role of endophytic fungi in promoting plant health (e.g., protection from oak wilt and other disease)
Document changing environmental conditions (air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, rainfall, soil temperature and moisture) in different ecosystems
Document effectiveness of management (e.g., soil conditions, seed production/viability, seedling/sapling/tree survival) and revise strategies as necessary

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