Tallgrass prairie restoration trajectories at a Midwestern preserve: Fire, Flooding, and Floristic Quality

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Amy McEuen, Sarah Lindholm, Christy Troxell-Thomas, and Emily Staley

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Longitudinal studies of prairie succession are rare yet important. We quantified the floristic quality of an Illinois reconstructed tallgrass prairie, examining floral change since the initial 2007 seeding of 81 species. We sampled early (2008) and later (2016) in the restoration across two transects in each of five sites across the preserve (15, 1-m2 plots per site; 75 plots total per year). Indices were calculated at both plot and community (site scale); including floristic quality index (FQI), mean coefficient of conservatism, mean coefficient of wetness, total species richness (S), native (N) richness, and non-native species (I) richness. Three of the five sites were heavily affected by historic flooding of the Illinois river in 2013. Burning frequency also varied among sites with flooded sites burned less. Community level indices reflected this difference in disturbance history among sites, showing large differences among sites and large ranges in FQI, and N. Although there was no significant change in the average value of indices at the community level (n=5 sites) over time, there was a significant increase in variance over time for multiple indices suggesting differences in restoration trajectories among the sites despite the same initial seeding. Given the appropriate disturbance type (burning) and frequency, floristic quality can increase over the first decade for prairie restorations. However, predicting specific restoration outcomes can be challenging as changing climate brings unexpected impacts (flooding). Managing for ecological surprises will become increasingly necessary given global change; thus making adaptive and reactive management approaches increasingly critical.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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