Developing a framework for evaluating tallgrass prairie reconstruction methods and management

Diane L. Larson, Marissa Ahlering, Pauline Drobney, Rebecca Esser, Jennifer L. Larson, Karen Viste-Sparkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The thousands of hectares of prairie reconstructed each year in the tallgrass prairie biome can provide a valuable resource for evaluation of seed mixes, planting methods, and post-planting management if methods used and resulting characteristics of the prairies are recorded and compiled in a publicly accessible database. The objective of this study was to evaluate the use of such data to understand the outcomes of reconstructions over a 10-year period at two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges. Variables included number of species planted, seed source (combine-harvest or combine-harvest plus hand-collected), fire history, and planting method and season. In 2015 we surveyed vegetation on 81 reconstructions and calculated proportion of planted species observed; introduced species richness; native species richness, evenness and diversity; and mean coefficient of conservatism. We conducted exploratory analyses to learn how implied communities based on seed mix compared with observed vegetation; which seeding or management variables were influential in the outcome of the reconstructions; and consistency of responses between the two refuges. Insights from this analysis include: 1) proportion of planted species observed in 2015 declined as planted richness increased, but lack of data on seeding rate per species limited conclusions about value of added species; 2) differing responses to seeding and management between the two refuges suggest the importance of geographic variability that could be addressed using a public database; and 3) variables such as fire history are difficult to quantify consistently and should be carefully evaluated in the context of a public data repository.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-18
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Restoration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Ian Drobney, Amanda McColpin, Drew Larson, and Saskia Raether for conducting the 2015 vegetation surveys and Kathleen Carlyle, Ben Walker, Amanda McColpin and Tenlea Turner for collecting and organizing site seeding and management data. We are grateful to the practitioners who brought these reconstructed prairies to fruition over the years. James Ellis, two anonymous reviewers, and the associate editor provided comments that greatly improved this report. This work was supported by the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers Landscape Conservation Cooperative, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3 and U.S. Geological Survey Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and the U.S. Geological Survey and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.


  • Database
  • Grassland
  • Plant species richness
  • Prairie Reconstruction Initiative
  • Restoration

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