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The Cincinnati Nature Center has an oak savanna. What is it and why do we need it?

Kelly Volz
Cincinnati Nature Center
The new oak savanna is at the corner of Gaynor and Fay roads in Goshen at Long Branch Farm and Trails.

Oaks are one of the most beneficial trees to support wildlife, especially after the disappearance of ash and chestnut trees.

But with oak trees on the decline, as WVXU reported in 2021, the Cincinnati Nature Center has created a six-acre oak savanna at its Long Branch Farm and Trails in Goshen.

Director of Conservation Cory Christopher describes the savanna as if "you had a prairie and an oak forest and they had a baby together, that would be an oak savanna. Savannas tend to have trees but they also tend to have a lot of open areas between the trees."

That open space is beneficial because invasive species like honeysuckle often crowd out oak trees in forests.

LISTEN: A preview of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's 2023 Barrow Conservation Lecture Series

"Once the oak trees are a little taller we can actually go through and do prescribed burns on our oak savanna and those burns will take care of any of the invasives that might try to come in," he explains.

Josh Matheson
Cincinnati Nature Center
A drone shot of the oak savanna.

Christopher and his team have sown an entire field with a mixture of native wildflowers and grasses, planted 30-40 oaks and 50-60 other trees. The field used to be used for farming.

Christopher says oaks and their acorns support squirrels, wild turkeys and deer, and provide nesting for birds and other raptors and small animals, as well as food for insects and pollinators. Their deep roots also help hold the soil.

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This savanna will eventually be open to the public.

Oak savannas are one of the most endangered habitats on Earth.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.