Natural Resource Management

Outdoor Murfreesboro Natural Resources logo - Orange circle, white bird on branch silhouette, textNatural Resource Management is the active care of major natural resources such as land, water, forests, wild flora and fauna. The sustainable management of these resources strives to:

  • 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. 

  1. Natural Areas
  2. Restoration Projects
  3. About the Central Basin

Purple-flowered grass against green trees with blue sky

Murfreesboro's Natural Areas

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.

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Management Challenges

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.

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  1. Invasive Species
  2. Fire Suppression
  3. Urbanization

Forest stand showing crown die-back in ash trees caused by emerald ash borers.

The Problem

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.

Solutions

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 firewoodProblem 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 Actions

OMNR has several restoration projects, ongoing volunteer activities, and initiatives to address these issues in our city:

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There are, indeed, many challenges! Your Outdoor Murfreesboro Natural Resources team works to address these issues with restoration projects, defining and managing parks natural areasand MIPP: the Murfreesboro Indigenous Plant ProjectWe welcome your help!

Jump In!

Canoe on river shore laden with old truck tires; people wading; Summer

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Volunteer with OMNR!

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

  Conservation in Action logoGet Inspired!

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