Natural Resource Management
- promote diversity
- restore native systems
- preserve what is whole
- conserve what is in use
- maintain the ecosystem services that provide better quality of life to all
The Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Natural Resource Division works on many projects that meet these needs.
Murfreesboro is set in one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America. OMNR manages natural spaces that reflect this diversity along Murfreesboro's 15 miles of greenway, at Murfree Spring Wetlands, in the 275-acre Barfield Backcountry, at Nickajack/Black Fox Spring, Oakland/Sinking Creek Wetlands, Horseshoe Glade Natural Area at Siegel Park, among other sites.
Projects are underway at Old Fort Park, Murfree Spring Wetlands, and Sinking Creek Wetlands at Oaklands Park, where we are replacing exotic invasive plants with locally native (indigenous) species, providing habitat for pollinators, and working to capture trash before it washes into the wetlands.
Murfreesboro is nestled in the heart of Middle Tennessee in the physiographic region known as the Central Basin - one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the United States. The climate and other natural forces working over millions of years on the underlying limestone karst geology of the Central Basin have produced an ecosystem that supports a vast variety of plant and animal life, and a number of species that live here are found nowhere else in the world!
Nature is not static. Left alone, plant and animal communities have natural cycles, composition shifts, and dynamic interactions and interdependencies. However, nature in populated areas is not left alone and things can get seriously out-of-balance as natural processes and relationships are interrupted or influenced, directly and indirectly, by human activity. Our job is to mitigate those impacts, replacing natural forces that keep things in balance with stewardship that mimics them.
Three big conservation challenges in and around Murfreesboro (and well beyond!) are invasive plant and animal species, vegetation changes due to long-term fire suppression, and the impacts of urbanization and loss of agricultural land. Combined, these factors degrade habitat for countless native plant and animal species, decrease biodiversity, and diminish natural processes essential to ecosystem health.
Plants, animals, and pathogens that are native to other parts of the world often don't have natural controls (other organisms or environmental factors that keep their population in check in their native range) in areas where they are introduced. They arrive as landscape plants, in ballast water from freighters, in the pet trade, as packing material, and a myriad of other ways. Not all non-native species are invasive, but those that are - through explosive reproduction in disturbed areas, lack of natural controls, and aggressive use of resources - can out-compete indigenous (native) species that are part of our local ecosystem, disrupting ecosystem function and replacing native species over vast areas.
- Exotic invasive plants, most originally used in landscaping then escaping into the wild, have taken over large swaths of natural spaces, choking out the native vegetation that is more useful to our native fauna.
- Exotic invasive animals, including insects, outcompete indigenous fauna for food and other resources and can lay waste to entire populations of native plant species that are defenseless against them.
- Exotic invasive pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasitic protozoa, can infect some native species of plants and animals that have no natural immunity to them. Once established, they can decimate populations of susceptible native species.
The best way to avoid invasive species issues is to avoid introducing potentially invasive organisms in the first place:
- Landscape with native plants or ornamentals that contribute to the food web and have low invasive potential. Ornamental plants that are advertised as having no insect pests do not fit this bill: If a plant doesn't feed insects, it does not support insect populations nor the bird and other animal populations that depend on them for food.
- Do not transport firewood. Problem insects, such as the emerald ash borer, can be transported with it, introducing them into far-flung areas and accelerating their spread.
- Remove invasive tag-alongs when moving from one area to another. Boats, boots, clothing, and gear can carry invasive organisms (including seeds and eggs) and deposit them in the next area visited, starting a new infestation.
- Do not release pets into the wild nor allow domestic animals to roam. Animals obtained in the pet trade usually are not native to this area. When released, they can establish feral populations or introduce diseases that negatively impact native fauna. For example, in many places, feral populations of hogs and cats are serious conservation challenges.
Once the cows are out of the barn, so to speak, and an invasive species is firmly established in an area, control methods vary by species, severity of the infestation, underlying ecological considerations, and other factors. For problematic plants, control measures include removing them by hand, with a forestry mulcher, with herbicides, by controlled burns, or some combination of these methods. Invasive animal species can be even more challenging to control given their mobility and, often, their ability to conceal themselves. Control methods include trapping or netting, pesticide application, and removing and destroying infested plant matter. Biological controls are also available for some major pest species of both plants and animals.
- OMNR Restoration Projects
- Murfreesboro Indigenous Plant Project (MIPP)
- MIPP Guide to Native Plants for Landscaping Murfreesboro
- Emerald Ash Borer Damage Control
- USDA Forest Service: Invasive Species in Forests and Rangelands of the United States
- USDA National Invasive Species Information Center: Invasive Species Resources for Tennessee
- US Fish & Wildlife Service: Aquatic Invasive Species
- TN Invasive Plant Council
- The National Wildlife Federation
- The Wildlife Society
Fire suppression in natural spaces leads to an impenetrable tangle of woody vegetation replacing the patchwork of vegetative types that supports a wider variety of wildlife species. Generally speaking, a diversity of plant species in a mosaic made up of shrubby thickets, forested areas, and open areas with herbaceous plant cover provides suitable food and cover for the greatest diversity of wildlife species.
- Periodic prescribed burning helps maintain the plant community at an earlier, more productive, and more diverse stage of succession. Since smaller, controlled fires do not get as hot as wildfires, some trees and other woody vegetation survive. This helps maintain the desirable patchwork of vegetation types. Periodic prescribed fires also consume dead branches and other plant litter on the ground, reducing fuel build-up and the risk of devastating, uncontrolled wildfires.
- Bushhogging areas that don't lend themselves to prescribed burning because they are too wet or too near homes or facilities can mimic many of the effects of fire, especially if the debris is raked up. This helps keep woody vegetation at bay and reduces the buildup of fuels. It is important to plan the timing to be sure you are discouraging the species you want to discourage and not those you want to support - including wildlife such as ground-nesting birds.
- Focused herbicide application helps spot-treat areas where other approaches are not practical. It is important to use the appropriate herbicide at the correct level and to properly time the application according to the target species and site characteristics.
OMNR is developing prescribed burning plans for areas where it is practicable. Obviously, burning is not an option for many places within the city limits. In those places, we work to control woody vegetation overgrowth and fuel build-up by bush hogging, spraying, and - with the help of volunteers and community partners - manual removal of invasive plant infestations.
- TN Wildlife Resources Agency: The Burning Desire to Burn - Prevention vs Prescription
- TN.gov: Prescribing Fire
- TN Prescribed Fire Council
- USDA Forest Service: Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems
- The Nature Conservancy: Why We Work with Fire
The rapid growth and urbanization in Murfreesboro and the surrounding area in recent years has impacted our local natural systems and plant and wildlife communities:
- Water Quality: As the percentage of impervious surfaces increases in the city, stormwater percolation and filtration capacity decreases, resulting in increased litter-and-pollutant-laden runoff into our wetlands, rivers, and streams.
- Habitat Fragmentation: As large tracts of land that once held suitable wildlife habitat are divided, developed, and diminished, the disconnected fragments of habitat that remain aren't large enough to support a viable population of many wildlife species.
- Habitat Degradation: Our urban natural spaces face constant pressure from recreational use, litter accumulation, soil compaction and erosion, noise, and other factors that reduce the usefulness of these areas for wildlife.
- Riparian buffers use vegetation on the banks of waterways to slow and filter runoff water, reducing erosion and the introduction of sediment, litter, and pollution into wetlands, streams, rivers, and aquifers.
- Natural areas that are managed to support diverse wildlife species preserve some of the needed habitat for local wildlife inside city limits.
- Habitat corridors help preserve and connect pieces of suitable habitat. They can help mitigate fragmentation and allow for daily and seasonal wildlife movement through urban areas.
- Community involvement in maintaining healthy natural spaces and ecosystem function within the city.
We work to:
- Increase awareness of ecological systems, issues, and solutions within the city.
- Encourage community involvement in mitigating ecological challenges associated with urbanization.
- Restore degraded natural spaces on Murfreesboro Parks lands to improve ecological function, aesthetics, and environmental integrity.
Murfreesboro's Natural Resource Division offers many volunteer activities in the great outdoors throughout the year. Come help us care for Murfreesboro's wonderful natural setting, get some fresh air, and meet others who share your enthusiasm for nature. Learn more
Civic groups, individuals, non-profits, and other branches of Murfreesboro City government are working independently and collaboratively to care for the city's natural setting and systems. Learn more about what they're doing, and see what aligns with your interests. "Many hands make light work." Learn more