Current-Year Manuscripts

Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science [Volume 111 (2018)]

Vegetation of Tomlinson Pioneer Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve, Champaign County, Illinois

Authors: James L. Ellis and Kevin J. Wolz (111-03MS1057)

Tomlinson Pioneer Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve, located in Champaign County, Illinois, USA, is a 0.4 ha savanna remnant. This plant community type was once common across central Illinois. During the 2013 growing season, we visited the site to record vascular plant species present. We also conducted a quantitative vegetation survey late in the growing season to determine species composition. From these surveys measures of floristic conservation value were calculated including the Floristic Quality Index (I), Shannon diversity index (H’), and Effective Species Richness. A total of 125 vascular plant species were found comprised of 87 species of dicots and 38 species of monocots. Twenty-two non-native species were found comprising about 17% of the site flora. Dominant species were Helianthus hirsutus and Poa pratensis followed by Corylus americana, Andropogon gerardii, and Sorghastrum nutans. The site had an I value of 32.7, an H’ of 3.3, and Effective Species Richness of 27.1. Species richness and diversity is comparable to prairie and savanna remnants in the region but floristic conservation value is slightly lower due to relatively high presence of non-native species. Continued management to control unwanted woody and non-native plant species is recommended to maintain the uncommon vegetation community at this site.


Distribution of the Smooth Softshell (Apalone mutica) in Illinois

Authors: Robert D. Bluett and Aaron C. Gooley (111-02MS2167)

We documented occurrences of the Midland Smooth Softshell (Apalone mutica) in Illinois by sampling 22 reaches on 14 rivers with potentially suitable habitat (i.e., within the species’ presumed range and with stream orders ≥6). During 2007 through 2017, we accrued 796 trap-nights of effort with baited hoop nets. Nine species were represented in 4,974 captures of turtles. Captures of Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) were most common (n = 3,911), followed by Spiny Softshell (A. spinifera; n = 731) and Smooth Softshell (n = 124). Captures of A. mutica documented its presence in 9 of 11 rivers with historical records and 1 of 3 without (the Spoon River). Another study documented presence of A. mutica in the Big Muddy River, for a total of 11 rivers with recent records. Occurrences suggest the Smooth Softshell’s distribution in Illinois is the same as or substantially similar to historical times. Using stream order to target sampling efforts was a good strategy, but might be improved with refinements. Our findings and those of other recent studies can inform decisions about the legal status of A. mutica in Illinois by addressing official thresholds for endangered, threatened, and secure.


Current Distribution of Crawfish Frogs in Southernmost Illinois

Author: John G. Palis (111-01MS2156)

Crawfish Frogs (Rana areolata [Lithobates areolatus]) are secretive, fossorial anurans that inhabit crawfish burrows in grass-dominated habitats. They are of conservation concern throughout their range, especially east of the Mississippi River. Crawfish Frogs occur throughout much of the southern half of Illinois where many county occurrence records are decades old and where their current conservation status requires confirmation. I surveyed for the presence of Crawfish Frogs from 2006-2017 to estimate their current distribution in the 11 southernmost counties of Illinois. I detected Crawfish Frogs at 187 locations in 10 counties. Despite extensive habitat loss, Crawfish Frogs are currently widely distributed across southernmost Illinois and appear to be secure at this time. However, ongoing habitat alterations threaten the future of Crawfish Frog populations in the region; therefore, I encourage prompt, proactive conservation efforts while Crawfish Frogs are still relatively common.