|Paper No. 97-0|
|SOLDIERS DELIGHT NATURAL ENVIRONMENT AREA, MARYLAND, USA: TOWARD PRESERVATION OF A RARE, SERPENTINITE-BASED ECOSYSTEM|
FLANAGAN-BROWN, Riley E., Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218-2608, firstname.lastname@example.org, CLINE, Jennifer L., Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Patapsco Valley State Park, Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, 5100 Deer Park Road, Owings Mills, MD 21117, and JOHNSSON, Harald B. III, The Arundel Corporation, PO BOX 5000, Sparks, MD 21152|
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the private, non-profit organization, Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., has set aside over 2000 acres of land northwest of the city of Baltimore with the purpose of preserving its natural and cultural heritage. As a part of the state forest and park service and Patapsco Valley State Park, Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area (SDNEA) owes its special designation to the presence of chromite-rich serpentinite bedrock. With time, this serpentinized fragment of uppermost mantle, part of an ophiolite obducted onto North America during the Taconic Orogeny, yields serpentine soils that support over 35 rare and endangered plant species. These dry, nutrient-poor, and relatively toxic soils support only those plants that have adapted to these extreme conditions. SDNEA is also home to the Choate mine, one of the first chromite mines in the country.
Native Americans, who burned this and other areas within the Appalachian Piedmont to hunt deer, kept the area free of most trees, maintaining the prairie-like character of the barrens. European settlement of the area brought both fire suppression and development. Since grazing and mining activities came to an end in the early 1900's, encroachment upon the already decimated serpentinite grasslands by Virginia Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, and thorny Greenbriar threatens their destruction. In addition, exotic and invasive plant species pose a serious threat, spreading throughout SDNEA at alarming rates. Current, successful efforts to restore the grasslands include clearing and controlled burning each year (as weather conditions permit) along with well-planned eradication of invasives. With these efforts, rare and endangered wildflowers, including Sandplain Gerardia (Agalinis acuta), Serpentine Aster (Aster depauperatus), Fameflower (Talinum teretifolium), and the Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita) will have a chance to thrive amidst a sea of Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). The paleoecology, Native American and European experiences, and mining history of the area serve as an important educational resource. This combination of natural and cultural heritage, derived from the presence of serpentinite, makes SDNEA an important place to preserve.