Seed mix design and first year management influence multifunctionality and cost-effectiveness in prairie reconstruction
ecosystem services, erosion control, pollinators, prairie reconstruction, seedling establishment, tallgrass prairie, weed resistance
Agricultural intensification continues to diminish many ecosystem services in the North American Corn Belt. Conservation programs may be able to combat these losses more efficiently by developing initiatives that attempt to balance multiple ecological benefits. In this study, we examine how seed mix design and first year management influence three ecosystem services commonly provided by tallgrass prairie reconstructions (erosion control, weed resistance, and pollinator resources). We established research plots with three seed mixes, with and without first year mowing. The grass-dominated “Economy” mix had 21 species and a 3:1 grass-to-forb seeding ratio. The forb-dominated “Pollinator” mix had 38 species and a 1:3 grass-to-forb seeding ratio. The grass:forb balanced “Diversity” mix, which was designed to resemble regional prairie remnants, had 71 species and a 1:1 grass-to-forb ratio. To assess ecosystem services, we measured native stem density, cover, inflorescence production, and floral richness from 2015 to 2018. The Economy mix had high native cover and stem density, but produced few inflorescences and had low floral richness. The Pollinator mix had high inflorescence production and floral richness, but also had high bare ground and weed cover. The Diversity mix had high inflorescence production and floral richness (comparable to the Pollinator mix) and high native cover and stem density (comparable to the Economy mix). First year mowing accelerated native plant establishment and inflorescence production, enhancing the provisioning of ecosystem services during the early stages of a reconstruction. Our results indicate that prairie reconstructions with thoughtfully designed seed mixes can effectively address multiple conservation challenges.
Department of Biology
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Meissen, Justin C.; Glidden, Alec J.; Sherrard, Mark E.; Elgersma, Kenneth J.; and Jackson, Laura L., "Seed mix design and first year management influence multifunctionality and cost-effectiveness in prairie reconstruction" (2020). Faculty Publications. 291.