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Winter-patch grazing, patch-burn grazing, biodiversity, abundance, species richness, species composition


Native plant communities in the Northern Great Plains evolved under periodic fire and substantial grazing pressure from native herbivores, two main drivers maintaining the heterogeneity of grassland ecosystems. However, contemporary management practices focus on maximizing livestock production through fire suppression and uniform grazing strategies, resulting in decreased vegetation heterogeneity, species richness, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. Objectives of this study were to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of patch-burn grazing (PBG) and winter-patch grazing (WPG) managements on soil seed bank heterogeneity in terms of species 1) richness, 2) composition, 3) abundance, and 4) diversity. Two soil cores (10-cm dia × 10-cm depth) were extracted and composited from each of five exclosures on PBG, WPG and conventional grazing (control) patches (CG) in each of 3 pastures for a total of 45 composite soil cores. Samples were passed through a 2 mm sieve into flats and maintained in a greenhouse. For 3 months, emerged seedlings were recorded and identified. Overall, 2006 seedlings among 54 species emerged within CG (855 seedlings, 42 species), WPG (674 seedlings, 42 species), and PBG (477 seedlings, 31 species). Most seedlings were annual, native forbs. Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) was most abundant in CG (20%), 10% in WPG, and 2% in PBG. Species richness, composition, abundance, and diversity for PBG treatments were significantly lower than for CG and WPG treatments. Our findings suggest that PBG has a negative impact on seed bank species richness, composition, abundance, and diversity compared to WPG and CG. This study suggests that WPG may provide greater potential for seed bank richness, composition, abundance, and diversity than burning while also serving as a more palatable management tool for managers who are averse to fire.

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Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science



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South Dakota Academy of Science


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