The creation of diverse prairie-like communities

Abstract

We tested the prediction that we are more likely to create persistent, species-rich plant communities by increasing the number of species sown and allowing communities to assemble over six or seven growing seasons. Treatments consisted of four initial seed mixtures comprising 4, 8, 12 and 16 species that represent four functional groups (C3 graminoids, C4 grasses, N-fixing species, and late-flowering composites) that predominate within North American prairies. Once seeded, half of the plots were left alone to develop without subsequent reseeding. To provide multiple opportunities for establishment, we reseeded the remaining plots with any target species that failed to establish after two growing seasons. There were two 16 x 16 m (256 m2) replicates per treatment established in 1994 and 1996 on former agricultural land. Annually, we measured total species richness and evenness, total cover, and establishment success defined as target species richness and total percentage cover by target species, collectively. In some instances, significant treatment x year interactions indicated that treatment effects on variables varied among years. Both richness and rate of establishment of target communities were higher in the more species-rich mixtures. Moreover, richness of resident species in the plots declined with increasing target species richness. Reseeding had no measurable effect on any of the variables, nor on the eventual establishment of target communities or individual target species. Our results, indicating that establishment of species-rich plant communities can be enhanced by starting with larger numbers of species at the outset, have implications for projects in which community biodiversity creation and maintenance are key goals.

References

  1. Barkworth, M. E. and D. R. Dewey. 1985. Genomically based genera in the perennial Triticeae of North America: identification and membership. Amer. J. Bot. 72:767–776.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Betz, R. F., R. J. Lootens and M. K. Becker. 1999. Two decades of prairie restoration at Fermilab, Batavia, Illinois. In: C. Warwick (ed.), Proceedings of the 15th North American Prairie Conference. Natural Areas Association, Bend, Oregon, pp. 20–30.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Brown, C. S. and R. L. Bugg. 2001. Effects of established perennial grasses on introduction of native forbs in California. Restoration Ecol. 9:38–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Case, T. J. 1990. Invasion resistance arises in strongly interacting species-rich model competition communities. Proc. National Acad. Sci. 87:9610–9614.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Case, T. J. 1991. Invasion resistance, species build-up and community collapse in metapopulation models with interspecies competition. Biol. J. Linnean Soc. 42:239–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Connell, J. H. and R. O. Slatyer. 1977. Mechanisms of succession in natural communities and their role in community stability and organization. Am. Nat. 111:1119–1144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Daubenmire, R. 1959. A canopy-coverage method of vegetational analysis. Northwest Sci. 33:43–64.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Drake, J. A. 1990. Communities as assembled structures: do rules govern pattern? Trends Ecol. Evol. 5:159–164.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  9. Drake, J. A. 1991. Community assembly mechanics and the structure of an experimental species ensemble. Am. Nat. 131:1–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Drake, J. A., T. E. Flum, G. J. Witteman, T. Voskuil, A. M. Hoylman, C. Creson, D. A. Kenney, G. R. Huxel, C. S. LaRue and J. R. Duncan. 1993. The construction and assembly of an ecological landscape. J. Anim. Ecol. 62:117–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Evers, G. W. 1983. Weed control on warm season perennial grass pastures with clovers. Crop Sci. 23:170–171.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Univ. Kansas Press, Lawrence, Kansas.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Holt, R. D., G. R. Robinson and M. S. Gaines. 1995. Vegetation dynamics in an experimentally fragmented landscape. Ecology 76:1610–1624.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Huston, M. A. 1997. Hidden treatments in ecological experiments: re-evaluating the ecosystem function of biodiversity. Oecologia 110:449–460.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Jordan, W. R., III, M. E. Gilpin and J. D. Aber. 1987. Restoration ecology: ecological restoration as a tool for basic research. In: W. R. Jordan, III, M. E. Gilpin and J. D. Aber (eds.), Restoration Ecology: a Synthetic Approach to Ecological Research. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, pp. 3–21.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Kindscher, K. and P. V. Wells. 1995. Prairie plant guilds: amultivariate analysis of prairie species based on ecological and morphological traits. Vegetatio 117:29–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Liebman, M. and E. Dyck. 1993. Crop rotation and intercropping strategies for weed management. Ecol. Applic. 3:92–122.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Lockwood, J. L. and S. L. Pimm. 1999. When does restoration succeed? In: E. Weiher and P. Keddy (eds,), Ecological Assembly Rules. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, pp 363–392.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Munro, J. W. 1991. Wetland restoration in the mitigation context. Restoration & Management Notes 9:80–86.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Naeem, S., L. J. Thompson, S. P. Lawlor, J. H. Lawton and R. M. Woodfin. 1994. Declining biodiversity can alter the performance of ecosystems. Nature 368:734–737.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. 1988. Recommended chemical soil test procedures for the North Central Region. Revised ed. North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin Number 499.

  22. Palmer, M. W. and T. A. Maurer. 1997. Does diversity beget diversity? A case study of crops and weeds. J. Veg. Sci. 8:235–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Palmer, M. W. and K. A. Chandler-Ezell. 2001. Effects of initial plant species richness in microcosms: preliminary results. Community Ecol. 2:41–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Pickett, S. T. A. 1982. Population patterns through twenty years of oldfield succession. Vegetatio 49:45–59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Piper, J. K. 1995. Composition of prairie plant communities on productive versus unproductive sites in wet and dry years. Can. J. Bot. 73:1635–1644.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Piper, J. K. and P. A. Kulakow. 1994. Seed yield and biomass allocation in Sorghum bicolor and F1 and backcross generations of S. bicolor X S. halepense hybrids. Can. J. Bot. 72:468–474.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Post, W. M. and S. L. Pimm. 1983. Community assembly and food web stability. Math. Biosci. 64:169–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Robinson, J. V. and J. E. Dickerson, Jr. 1987. Does invasion sequence affect community structure?. Ecology 68:587–595.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Roberts, A. and K. Tregonning. 1981. The robustness of natural systems. Nature 288:265–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Samson, F. B. and F. L. Knopf. 1994. Prairie conservation in North America. Bioscience 44:418–421.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Schramm, P. 1992. Prairie restoration: a twenty-five year perspective on establishment and management. In: D. D. Smith and C. A. Jacobs (eds.), Proceedings of the Twelfth North American Prairie Conference. Univ. Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls. Iowa. pp. 169–177.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Smith, T. M., H. H. Shugart and F. I. Woodward. 1997. Plan T Functional Types: Their Relevance to Ecosystem Properties and Global Change. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, U. K.

    Google Scholar 

  33. SPSS. 2000. SYSTAT 10 for Windows. SPSS Inc., Chicago, III.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Technicon Industrial Systems. 1977. Individual/simultaneous determination of N and/or P in BD acid digestion. In: Industrial methods. No. 334–374 W/B. Technicon Industrial Systems, Tarrytown, N. Y.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Tilman, D. 1994. Competition and biodiversity in spatially structured habitats. Ecology 75:2–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Tilman, D. 1997. Community invasibility, recruitment limitation, and grassland biodiversity. Ecology 78:81–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Tilman, D., D. Wedin and J. Knops. 1996. Productivity and sustainability influenced by biodiversity in grassland ecosystems. Nature 379:718–720.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. Tregonning, K. and A. Roberts. 1978. Ecosystem-like behaviour of a random interaction model. Part I. Bull. Math. Biol. 40:513–524.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Tregonning, K. and A. Roberts. 1979. Complex systems which evolve towards homeostasis. Nature 281:563–564.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 1948. Grass. USDA Yearbook of Agriculture. Washington, D.C.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Wardle, D. A. 1999. Is “sampling effect” a problem for experiments investigating biodiversity—ecosystem function relationships?. Oikos 87:403–407.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Weber, S. 1999. Designing seed mixes for prairie restorations: revisiting the formula. Ecol. Restoration 17:196–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Wilbur, H. and R. A. Alford. 1985. Priority effects in experimental pond communities: responses of Hyla to Bufo and Rana. Ecology 66:1106–1114.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank the many interns, students, and staff of The Land Institute, Bethel College, and the University of Tennessee, especially Debra Crockett, Andrea Leach, Katie Goslee, Robin Mittenthal, Tina Ray, and David Van Tassel, who assisted with plot establishment and data collection. Martin Bender supplied precipitation data; Robert Bugg, Kelly Kindscher, and several anonymous reviewers commented on earlier drafts. The Land Institute provided summer support. This study was funded in part by a grant from the Eppley Foundation for Research to Jon K. Piper.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. K. Piper.

Rights and permissions

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Piper, J.K., Pimm, S.L. The creation of diverse prairie-like communities. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 3, 205–216 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.3.2002.2.7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Community construction
  • Grassland biodiversity
  • Prairie
  • Restoration
  • Species richness