Implications of Food Web Interactions for Restoration of Missouri Ozark Glade Habitats


Address correspondence to P. A. Van Zandt, email


Ozark glades are gaps in forested areas that are dominated by grasses and forbs growing in rocky, nutrient-poor soil. Historically, these open, patchy habitats were maintained by natural and anthropogenic fire cycles that prohibited tree encroachment. However, because of decades of fire suppression, glades have become overgrown by fire-intolerant species such as Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Current restoration practices include cutting down invasive cedars and burning brush piles, which represent habitat for Northern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus). Because Sceloporus actively consumes herbivores, we hypothesized that the presence of these lizards in and around brush piles might result in a trophic cascade, whereby damage on native plants is reduced. Field surveys across six Missouri glades indicated that lizard activity was minimal beyond 1 m from habitat structures. This activity pattern reduced grasshopper abundance by 75% and plant damage by over 66% on Echinacea paradoxa and Rudbeckia missouriensis near structures with lizards. A field transplant experiment demonstrated similar reductions in grasshopper abundance and damage on two other glade endemic species, Aster oblongifolius and Schizachyrium scoparium. These results demonstrate that future glade restoration efforts might benefit from considering top-down effects of predators in facilitating native plant establishment.