Ten Years of Plant Community Change in Mesic and Wet Prairie Following Restoration at the 1,225-hectare Dixon Waterfowl Refuge in Hennepin, Illinois

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Anna Braum, Jim Monchak, Gary Sullivan

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Few studies have assessed the long-term outcomes of landscape-scale restoration in prairie grasslands, an imperiled North American ecosystem. In 2002, restoration of prairie and wetlands began on a 1,225-ha former floodplain along the Illinois River in Hennepin, Illinois that had been levied, drained, and under cultivation since 1909. In 2008, five years after planting, sixty 733-m2 randomly located plots were surveyed in mesic and wet prairie to assess the trajectory of plant community development, evaluate progress towards restoration goals, and inform management actions. The prairie was surveyed again in 2018 to determine changes in plant community composition over the 10-year period. We found that mean plant species’ conservatism increased significantly in both habitats, primarily due to a decline in species with lower conservatism values. Native species richness increased, while non-native richness declined significantly in both habitats. The mean native floristic quality index (FQI) increased in both habitats and attained levels associated with high-quality natural areas (>35). However, diversity metrics declined in portions of the site, and this appeared to be associated with changes in species composition related to hydrology and/or the increasing importance of aggressive native species. Our results indicate that the evolution of restored communities at the landscape scale is related to species turnover and dispersal dynamics. We find that large-scale restoration of plant communities with high floristic quality can be achieved across multiple habitat types, even at sites with extensive agricultural histories. Assessing long-term plant community trajectories requires monitoring, analysis, and adaptive management to sustain successful restoration outcomes.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program