Assessing impacts of Patch-Burn Grazing on Small Mammal Communities at Hi Lonesome Prairie Conservation Area
Presenter: Cori L. Brown, University of Central Missouri
Tallgrass prairie is one of the most endangered habitats in North America. Historically, 33% of Missouri consisted of tallgrass prairie; however, less than 0.05% of that prairie remains. A stable prairie system is an extremely diverse system that contains many endemic plant and animal species. Historically, interactions between wildfire and grazing by large herbivores (bison) served to enhance this diversity by removing dominant plant species and allowing for a release of species that may have been suppressed by the dominant species. Wildfire suppression, the loss of wild bison herds, and habitat fragmentation continue to degrade the little tallgrass prairie that remains. Patch-burn grazing is a land management technique that aims to recreate the disturbances created by wildfire and grazing using prescribed, patchy fires and cattle. In the absence of these disturbances, the prairie habitat becomes simplified or homogenized, and species diversity is adversely affected. While studies have been performed evaluating the effects of patch-burn grazing on many plant and bird species, there is a need to assess the impacts of this management technique on small mammal communities. This study will assess small mammal communities in Hi Lonesome Prairie Conservation Area in Benton County, Missouri, where patch-burn grazing is currently being utilized. Sampling efforts are currently underway in all patches at Hi Lonesome as well as the un-grazed unit of the conservation area.
The Effects of Habitat Management and Landscape Context on N. Bobwhite Winter Survival and Habitat Selection in SW MO
Presenter: Alisha Mosloff, School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri
Long-term declines in northern bobwhite quail and more recent questions regarding patch-burn grazing and extensive grassland management suggest additional information on habitat and management effects on bobwhite demographics is needed. Our objectives were to determine habitat and landscape effects on winter survival and habitat selection in the context of traditional intensive bobwhite habitat management versus extensive grassland management. We tracked 220 bobwhite 3 times per week from 1 November through 31 January in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 on 5 conservation areas in southwest Missouri. Two sites were traditionally managed with landscape features comprising hedgerows, strip crops, and food plots, while 3 conservation areas were extensively managed with prescribed burning and grazing. We classified land cover as native prairie, shrubby thickets, and mature edges based on aerial photography, We used logistic exposure known-fate survival models in a bayesian framework to evaluate drivers of survival and estimated survival with the most supported models. Prescribed burning within the last 2 years decreased survival (posterior mean: -0.90, CRI: -1.71, 0.08. Greater distances to mature edges increased survival (PM: 0.38, CRI: 0.03, 0.76), as did higher woody edge densities (PM:0.51, CRI: 0.01, 1.01). Similarly, increased contagion of woody cover also increased survival (PM: 0.32, CRI: 0.05, 0.60). We evaluated habitat selection using discrete choice habitat selection models in a bayesian framework to determine habitat and management factors influencing habitat selection. The relationships between survival and habitat and management will inform conservation and management that promotes bobwhite survival during winter.
Summer Bobwhite Brood Survival and Resource Selection: Effects of Habitat, Management and Landscape
Presenter: Emily A. Sinnott, School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri
Bobwhite populations have declined by nearly 80% in Missouri since 1967. We address critical information gaps around brood ecology, a vulnerable life stage affecting population growth. We determined habitat and landscape factors affecting survival and resource selection during the first 114 days of life. Seventy-five broods and 219 radio-tagged young were captured and tracked from 2016—2018. We estimated bobwhite juvenile survival under a known fate modeling framework and evaluated habitat selection patterns using step selection analysis. Survival increased with age and 114-day period survival was 26.7%. Survival was greatest on native grasslands burned and grazed at least once in the previous two years, followed by croplands and grazed mixed grasslands. Shrub cover within 50-m had weak positive effects on survival. Resource selection results complemented survival patterns. Broods had strongest selection for native grasslands burned and grazed and croplands. Broods older than 35-days showed stronger selection for idle native grasslands, shrubs, and croplands than younger broods. Woody composition had a stronger influence on space use than survival; tree cover within 50-m was selected against, while broods selected for shrub cover and proximity to mature trees. Juvenile survival and brood habitat selection were sensitive to the quality and availability of alternative habitats in the surrounding landscape, cover type and management practices, and composition of local woody vegetation and our results can be used to inform management. Future research could evaluate interactive effects of seasonal and extreme weather on brood survival or sensitivity of annual population trends to breeding season dynamics.
Updated Population Census of an Uncommon Prairie Forb, Royal Catchfly, at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Republic, MO
Presenter: Kathleen A. Kull, American Conservation Experience, National Park Service Heartland I&M Network
The royal catchfly (Silene regia, Caryophyllaceae) is a rare, tap-rooted, perennial forb known to occupy Midwestern prairies, glades, and savannas, which are increasingly fragmented. While not federally listed, it is recognized as threatened or endangered in five states. We resurveyed fifteen population sites identified in 1980s and 1990s monitoring at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Republic, MO. Abundance at each site was collected in six years and analyzed using TRIM; measures of plant height and proportion of stems browsed were collected in four years and analyzed using two-way ANOVAs. Fire history and precipitation were also explored. Abundance of royal catchfly declined significantly (p < 0.0001) over the study period, and only five of fifteen populations had detectable individuals in 2019. Year, site location, and the interaction between the two were highly significant factors (all p < 0.001) in explaining variation of height measures and proportion of stems browsed. Plant height was significantly higher in 2019 than any other year (p < 0.05), corresponding with overgrowth of competing vegetation and a wet spring; however, no year (p > 0.50) or month (p > 0.07) had significantly different precipitation than any other. Over the monitoring period, prescribed fires became less frequent, and over the entire period the mean fire return interval was higher than the historical regime of the region (9.7 years versus 4 – 8 years). The marked decline in royal catchfly at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield speaks to the need for reinvigorated fire management and restoration of prairie and savanna ecosystems.
Patterns of Anthropogenic Fire within the Midwestern Tallgrass Prairie: Evidence from Historical Records (1673-1905)
Presenter: Charles M. Ruffner, Southern Illinois University
We conducted searches in literature from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin for descriptions of wildland fires occurring between 1673 and 1905. A total of 797 landscape fires were identified within or near the eastern tallgrass prairie-forest transition, including 33 attributed to Native Americans, 195 to Europeans during early settlement in the nineteenth century, and 569 European ignitions from Minnesota during the agricultural/industrial years of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Overwhelming evidence suggests a two- to three-week period during October and November, known as Indian summer, was the primary season of occurrence for wildland fire in this study. Our records indicate Native Americans used fire primarily for hunting, whereas Europeans set fires to reduce fire hazards near habitations, eliminate crop residues to facilitate plowing, or mere carelessness. Only five lightning-caused fires were identified. Individual fires frequently burned thousands of hectares, creating dense smoke, damaging trees, personal property, and occasionally burning inhabitants to death. South and southwest were the most frequent wind directions for wildfires; a few were driven by east winds. Drought years, including 1796, 1819, 1856, and 1871, were characterized by extensive fires which ultimately resulted in legislation to protect property owners and public welfare. Fire frequency for the study period is thought to be underestimated because only large, spectacular, threatening fires were recorded during European settlement. In addition, we suggest Native American fires are under-represented due to their widespread population collapse following contact with Europeans.
Quantifying Seed Rain Patterns in a Remnant and Chronosequence of Restored North-Central Missouri Tallgrass Prairies
Presenter: Katherine Wynne, University of Missouri
Seed rain, or the dispersal of seeds into an area, is an understudied phenomenon that is closely related to the colonization, establishment, and persistence of species in a community. However, little is known about natural seed rain patterns in grassland communities and how these patterns change during the restoration process in comparison to remnant systems. To address these knowledge gaps, we revisited a seminal grassland seed rain study conducted by Rabinowitz and Rapp (1980) and quantified the seed rain patterns in the same remnant tallgrass prairie and a chronosequence of restorations. In May of 2019, we deployed 200 turf-grass seed carpets (0.1 x 0.1 m) in 3, 6, and 15-year-old restored prairies and a remnant prairie. We collected and replaced seed traps every 2-weeks, and captured seeds were identified and counted. From May to August 2019, we collected over 27,000 seeds representing at least 70 species. We found differences in the abundance of seeds falling in restored vs remnant grasslands, and differences along the chronosequence. In general, we found that restored prairies had higher abundances of captured seeds than the remnant. Over the same time interval, we captured more seeds and species in the remnant prairie in 2019 than in 1980. Although this study is ongoing, we expect to find differences in species composition and timing of seed dispersal between the remnant and restored prairies varying with restoration age. Overall, our work further informs management efforts on how to better utilize spatiotemporal patterns of seed dispersal in creating high-quality restorations.