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Environments 2014, 1(1), 75-91; doi:10.3390/environments1010075

Wildlife Habitat Quality (Sward Structure and Ground Cover) Response of Mixed Native Warm-Season Grasses to Harvesting

1
Agricultural Research Station, Virginia State University, 238 M.T. Carter Bldg, Box 9061, Petersburg, VA 23806, USA
2
Plant and Soil Sciences Department, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA
3
Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture Department, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA
These co-authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 July 2014 / Revised: 5 August 2014 / Accepted: 6 August 2014 / Published: 15 August 2014
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Abstract

Agricultural intensification in America has replaced native warm-season grasses (NWSG) with introduced forages causing wildlife habitat loss and population declines for the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and similar ground-nesting birds. Reintroducing NWSGs onto managed grasslands to reverse grassland bird population declines lacks information about appropriate multi-purpose management. Post-season nesting habitat quality of mixed NWSGs (indiangrass (IG, Sorghastrum nutans), big bluestem (BB, Andropogon gerardii) and little bluestem (LB, Schizachyrium scoparium)) responding to previous-year(s) harvest intervals (treatments, 30-, 40-, 60-, 90 or 120-d) and duration (years in production), were assessed on late-spring-early-summer re-growths. Yearly phased harvestings were initiated in May on sets of randomized plots, ≥90-cm apart, in five replications (blocks) to produce one-, two-, and three-year old stands by the third year. Sward heights and canopy closure were recorded a day before harvest, followed a week after by visual estimates of ground cover of plant species and litter. Harvesting increased post-season grass cover and reduced forbs following a high rainfall year. Harvested plot swards showed no treatment differences, but were shorter and intercepted more sunlight. Similarly, harvest duration increased grass cover with no year effect but reduced forbs following a high rainfall year. One- or two-year full-season harvesting of similar stands may not compromise subsequent bobwhite nesting-cover provided post-season harvesting starts after the breeding cycle is completed. View Full-Text
Keywords: native grass; harvest; habitat quality; nesting cover; grassland birds; sward height; bobwhite native grass; harvest; habitat quality; nesting cover; grassland birds; sward height; bobwhite
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Temu, V.W.; Baldwin, B.S.; Reddy, K.R.; Riffell, S.; Burger, L.W. Wildlife Habitat Quality (Sward Structure and Ground Cover) Response of Mixed Native Warm-Season Grasses to Harvesting. Environments 2014, 1, 75-91.

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Environments EISSN 2076-3298 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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