Meadows are open-land, treeless habitats dominated by herbaceous vegetation such as grasses and wildflowers. Although most of the meadows in the area are agricultural fields dominated by nonnative species, natural grassland habitat with native plant species are very important for wildlife. Grasslands and prairies originally covered millions of acres of U.S land. After many years of disturbances such as conversion to farmland, overgrazing, overexploitation of game species, introduction of invasive species, fire suppression, and other causes, less than 1% of the prairie remains. Even though the Anacostia watershed is not in the Great Plains, grassland ecosystems were part of the natural heritage of the region. Natural grasslands and prairie-like habitats once covered parts of the northern half of Maryland, intermixed with tree groves and woodlands. Meadows with native herbaceous species provide terrific habitats for birds, mammals, and insect pollinators.
What is a Riparian Meadow?
A Riparian area is classified by the habitat along a river or stream bank. This area is a wetland area that is located between the land and the water. Riparian areas are necessary for soil stabilization, which improves the quality of the water it surrounds.
Anacostia Riparian Meadow Restoration
The Anacostia Riparian Meadow Restoration (ARMR) project was initiated by AWS in 2007. The goals of the program are to replace non-native plant species along the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia with native plants and grasses. Riparian (wetland) meadows full of native species create a special habitat for native wildlife, including birds and insects.
In 2007 AWS initiated an experimental research project with the help of an interdisciplinary team of experts, to look for alternative methods to riparian buffer restoration on floodways where reforestation is not permitted because of stream channel engineering constraints. Our ARMR project site is located on a short section of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River, immediately downstream of the 38th Avenue Bridge in Hyattsville, Maryland. The purpose of ARMR is to show that an alternative vegetation management regime using native herbaceous plant species, specific to a riparian meadow habitat, can be established without compromising the floodways management goals. The created meadow habitat can provide a better habitat for the urban wildlife and greater aesthetic value to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System.
In 2016, we redoubled our efforts, and worked with jurisdictions to add two more meadow sites at the confluence of the river in Bladensburg, and on Kingman Island. Working with hundreds of volunteers, we sowed these previously mowed meadows with native grasses and flowers that will benefit the river.
How Can I Help?
AWS native plant propagation events usually take place during spring and/or fall each year, though special planting events may occur during other seasons. During the rest of the year—particularly in summer—we schedule other necessary maintenance events for volunteers.
If you want to help out as an individual or in a group of volunteers, visit our events calendar to see when our next scheduled event will take place.
Donations in support of our restoration activities are deeply appreciated.
Interested in engaging your students in meadow restoration? Visit our SONG program page to learn more.