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It is impossible to explicitly state the degree to which mid-contract management (MCM) impacts the benefits that CRP enrollments provide due to the size of the program and variety of management prescriptions. But it is well documented that all native grasslands evolved with some type of ecological disturbance and the relatively good health of the grassland correlates with its disturbance regime. Concomitantly, all grassland bird communities have habitat requirements that evolved in conjunction with disturbance (primarily grazing).

While natural-disturbance regimes may be desirable from an ecological prospective, dependence on natural disturbances to meet specific conservation objectives is unrealistic. Management policies are needed to encourage efforts to preserve and enhance grassland habitat by managing for heterogeneity while offsetting principal threats such as invasion of noxious plant species and woody vegetation. The accumulation of dead vegetation (litter), in the absence of management, greatly retards growth in the spring, prevents the emergence of some plants, reduces flowering, decreases productivity and promotes monocultures. Perpetuation of diversity in grass-species composition is a fundamental goal for trying to sustain desirable habitat for grassland-dependent wildlife. In the absence of natural disturbance, this goal is only accomplished through some form of prescribed management. And while some types of management are superior at replicating historic disturbances (grazing, burning), other forms of management (haying, mowing, disking) accomplish at least some level of necessary disturbance.


Department of Biology

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UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa


©2020 Kenneth J. Elgersma



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