The University of Arizona

Spring Clipping, Fire, and Simulated Increased Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition Effects on Tallgrass Prairie Vegetation

Alexander J. Smart, Tabithia K. Scott, Sharon A. Clay, David E. Clay, Michelle Ohrtman, Eric M. Mousel

Abstract


Defoliation aimed at introduced cool-season grasses, which uses similar resources of native grasses, could substantially reduce their competitiveness and improve the quality of the northern tallgrass prairie. The objective was to evaluate the use of early season clipping and fire in conjunction with simulated increased levels of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on foliar canopy cover of tallgrass prairie vegetation. This study was conducted from 2009 to 2012 at two locations in eastern South Dakota. Small plots arranged in a split-plot treatment design were randomized in four complete blocks on a warm-season grass interseeded and a native prairie site in east-central South Dakota. The whole plot consisted of seven treatments: annual clip, biennial clip, triennial clip, annual fire, biennial fire, triennial fire, and undefoliated control. The clip plots consisted of weekly clipping in May to simulate heavy grazing. Fire was applied in late April or early May. The subplot consisted of nitrogen applied at 0 or 15 kg N . ha^-1 in early June. All treatments were initially applied in 2009. Biennial and triennial treatments were reapplied in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Canopy cover of species/major plant functional groups was estimated in late August/ early September. Annual clipping was just as effective as annual fire in increasing native warm-season grass and decreasing introduced cool-season grass cover. Annual defoliation resulted in greater native warm-season grass cover, less introduced coolseason grass cover, and less native cool-season grass cover than biennial or triennial defoliation applications. Low levels of nitrogen did not affect native warm-season grass or introduced cool-season cover for any of the defoliation treatments, but it increased introduced cool-season grass cover in the undefoliated control at the native prairie site. This study supports the hypothesis that appropriately applied management results in consistent desired outcomes regardless of increased simulated atmospheric nitrogen depositions.

Key Words: big bluestem, burning, introduced grasses, mowing, native grasses, nitrogen


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