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Wednesday, April 11 • 4:30pm - 4:45pm
PROCESSES IN AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPES: Landowners, Non-Native Plants, and Grassland Birds: Exploring Possibilities for Management on Privately-Owned Pastures That Serve as Wildlife Habitat

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AUTHORS: Jaime J. Coon*, Scott B. Nelson – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences; Lois Wright Morton, Iowa State University, Department of Sociology; James R. Miller, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

ABSTRACT: Prairie and pastureland loss in the central U.S. has accelerated in recent decades, and the negative effects of this are amplified by exotic grass invasions. One such grass–tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus)—is valued for drought tolerance but is potentially problematic for cattle and wildlife. However, managing grasses like fescue is complicated by private land ownership that requires coordination across parcel boundaries. Therefore, we are studying tall fescue management using integrative agricultural, social, and ecological research. We first examined the effects of tall fescue on cattle and wildlife. Given negative health consequences reported in lab studies, we tested whether cattle avoid grazing fescue at broad (pasture-level) and fine (0.1m2 quadrats) scales. We found that they do avoid fescue, but this avoidance is moderated by prescribed fire management. We then examined the effects of fescue on the nest ecology of a grassland bird, the dickcissel (Spiza americana), and found that fescue abundance near nests reduces nest survival. Given these problems, we are currently investigating how to improve habitat quality with a landscape-scale fescue-removal experiment using herbicide, grazing, and fire. While herbicide treatment initially led to increased abundances for some bird species and decreased abundances for others, all species returned to baseline abundances or greater three years after treatment. To gauge willingness to use these management practices on private land, we implemented two surveys on grassland management in 2007 (N=81) and 2017 (N=149). While we found more negative attitudes toward habitat restoration in 2017 vs. 2007, more landowners now implement management that benefits wildlife, including prescribed fire and removing non-native plants. Despite the well-known difficulties associated with managing non-natives on private land, our results indicate a synergy in benefits between social, agricultural, and ecological spheres. This illustrates the importance of investigating and emphasizing co-benefits when coordinating management in private-land dominated landscapes.

Wednesday April 11, 2018 4:30pm - 4:45pm CDT
Adams Room