Comparing Prairie Reconstruction Chronosequences to Remnants Following Two Site Preparation Methods in Missouri, USA

Principal Investigators: Chris Newbold, Dr. Benjamin O. Knapp, Dr. Lauren S. Pile

Institution and/or Affiliation: University of Missouri


Prairie reconstruction has become a common method for reestablishing tallgrass prairie communities in the central United States. With the objective of creating plant communities that approximate remnant (reference) prairies, managers are interested in identifying: (1) best methods for reconstructing reference community conditions; (2) the rate of change in plant communities through time following reconstruction; and (3) species present in remnant communities but missing from reconstructed communities. This information is important in the development of adaptive management strategies during active reconstruction. We used a chronosequence approach to assess the success of two reconstruction methods in emulating local, reference remnant prairie plant communities. We compared broadcast dormant seeding following two types of site preparation, agricultural cropping (Crop) or herbicide control in existing grass assemblages (Grass), and remnant communities. The Crop site preparation method resulted in a rapid increase in richness shortly following seeding. Although more similar to remnant assemblages initially, the Grass method took longer for mean coefficient of conservatism and floristic quality index to approach conditions of the reference communities. However, neither method resulted in plant community compositions that converged with the reference through time. Further, indicator species analysis identified a diverse assemblage of species lacking from the reconstructed prairies. These results suggest the need to develop management strategies for establishing the “missing” species during reconstruction and provide further support for protection and conservation of existing remnant prairies.

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