Landscape Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 309–323 | Cite as

Geographical patterns in openland cover and hayfield mowing in the Upper Great Lakes region: implications for grassland bird conservation

  • R. Gregory CoraceIII
  • David J. Flaspohler
  • Lindsey M. Shartell
Research Article


Populations of many grassland bird species such as Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), Henslow’s Sparrow (A. henslowii), and Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) have experienced considerable declines over the last century. To foster multi-species grassland bird conservation in the Upper Great Lakes (UGL) states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, we quantified geographic patterns within three sub-regional zones (e.g., North, Central, and South) of the UGL. Patterns of interest included the distribution and abundance of openland cover type (including managed pasture-hayland), the distribution, phenology, habitat affinity, and long-term population trends of ten grassland bird species, and (in particular) the geographic patterns in hayfield mowing and the temporal changes in hayfield cover. Approximately 10, 38, and 53% of the UGL openland was proportioned in the North, Central, and South zones, respectively. The distribution of hayland also varied by zone: North, 17%; Central, 46%; and South, 37%. In the central portion of the UGL where the greatest area is devoted to hay production, alfalfa—more intensively managed than mixed-grass hay—predominates. Although we found significance differences (P < 0.05) in hayfield mowing intensity between zones (with the majority of land under relatively low-intensity mowing found in the North Zone, particularly the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) no strong relationships were found between hayfield mowing patterns, other land cover-land use variables, and bird population trends at finer scales of study. Nonetheless, we suggest that the geographic patterns illustrated here provide useful information for grassland bird conservation planning across the UGL.


Bobolink Conservation planning Grassland birds Hayfields Midwest Michigan Minnesota Wisconsin 



The authors wish to thank Seney Natural History Association for financial support and Seney National Wildlife Refuge for logistical support. Special thanks go out to all the resource professionals who provided data pertaining to hayfield mowing patterns and to Jennifer Papillo who assisted with collecting these data. Previous drafts of this manuscript were improved through the numerous comments and suggestions of John Probst. Other reviewers included Chris Burnett, Eric Gustafson, James Herkert, Rolf Koford, Damon McCormick, Holly Petrillo, Tom Will, and two anonymous reviewers. We thank all for their input.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Gregory CoraceIII
    • 1
  • David J. Flaspohler
    • 2
  • Lindsey M. Shartell
    • 2
  1. 1.US Fish and Wildlife ServiceSeney National Wildlife RefugeSeneyUSA
  2. 2.School of Forest Resources and Environmental ScienceMichigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA

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