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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Grasses, Grazers, and Conservation – An Exploration of the Effects of Conservation Management Practices on Plant Diversity and Invasion Dynamics
  • Primary Author: Martha Hoopes (Mount Holyoke College)
  • Additional Authors: Brittany Cavazos (Rice University); Dan Flynn (Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University); Anna Mayrand (Emory University)
  • Abstract:

    Although woodlands cover much of the terrestrial, natural lands in New England, grasslands present a significantly different system in a forested mosaic landscape with different conservation management and different invasion dynamics. Woody species tend to encroach and shift these habitats toward woodlands, but grassland systems offer habitat for an increasingly rare set of plants, vertebrates, and invertebrates. Conservation managers employ a range of mowing, burning, and grazing approaches to maintain grassland systems, but these approaches all have economic, energy, and invasion consequences. At Harvard Farm we are comparing the effects of intensive rotational grazing, intermediate constant grazing, and haying on native plant species and the spread of invasive species by monitoring plant communities in 27 long term monitoring plots. Baseline censuses were conducted in 2014, and grazing treatments were applied in the summers of 2015 and 2016. We re-censused all plots before and after grazing treatments in each year, and mapped locations of woody invasive species. In all treatments, existing woody shrub patches have continued to have the highest species diversity, and former golf course greens have altered the most as they shift from very depauperate communities to a wider array of species. Overall, mowing appears to lead to less homogenization than grazing, but results are still preliminary and are confounded by some inconsistency in the application of treatments (i.e., escapee cows).

  • Research Category: Large Experiments and Permanent Plot Studies; Invasive Plants, Pests & Pathogens; Conservation and Management; Biodiversity Studies