Extirpation or Coexistence? Management of a Persistent Introduced Grass in a Prairie Restoration

Authors

  • Scott D. Wilson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, S4S 0A2
      Address correspondence to S. D. Wilson, email scott.wilson@uregina.ca
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  • Meelis Pärtel

    1. Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, S4S 0A2
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    • 2

      Present address: Institute of Botany and Ecology, Tartu University, Tartu 51005, Estonia


Address correspondence to S. D. Wilson, email scott.wilson@uregina.ca

Abstract

Abstract Introduced perennial grasses are one of the greatest constraints to prairie restoration. Herbicides suppress but do not eliminate introduced grasses, so we explored the interaction of herbicide with two additional controls: heavy clipping (to simulate grazing) and competition from native species. A 50-year-old stand of the introduced perennial grass Agropyron cristatum (crested wheatgrass) in the northern Great Plains was seeded with native grasses and treated with herbicide annually for 7 years in a factorial experiment. Clipping was applied as a subplot treatment in the final 3 years. Both herbicide and clipping significantly reduced the cover of A. cristatum, but clipping produced an immediate and consistent decrease, whereas herbicide control varied among years. The cover of A. cristatum decreased significantly with increasing cover of a seeded native grass, Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama), suggesting that both top-down (i.e., grazing) and bottom-up (i.e., resource competition) strategies can contribute to A. cristatum control. No treatment had any effect on the seed bank of A. cristatum. Even in the most effective control treatments, A. cristatum persisted at low amounts (approximately 5% cover) throughout the experiment. The cover of B. gracilis increased significantly with seed addition and herbicide, and, after 7 years, was similar to that in undisturbed prairie. The total cover of native species increased significantly with clipping and herbicide, and species richness was significantly higher in plots receiving herbicide. Clipping season had no effect on any variable. In summary, no method extirpated A. cristatum, but clipping reduced its cover by 90% and doubled the cover of native species. Extirpation might not be a realistic goal, but relatively simple management allowed coexistence of native species.

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