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Wildlife managers have for many years been interested in the role of mowing as a management technique to benefit wildlife. Two long-term mowing regimes (60 years of similar management) were evaluated at Patuxent Research Refuge during the summer of 1997 to better understand the influence of mowing on vegetation communities. Mowing ceased in 1997 due to reduction in maintenance funds, which facilitated the identification of mature grasses. The previous mowing regimes included (1) lawn areas that had been mowed with rotary mowers approximately every 24 weeks and (2) meadow areas that had been mowed approximately once a year with a brushhog. Each regime had two replications. Vegetation was sampled in 20, 1 m2 plots per area (n=80) and percent cover visually estimated by species. The percent ground cover of the dominant vegetation on the lawn area was 40.0% red fescue (Festuca rubra), 26.5% white clover (Trifolium repens), and 18.0% Kentucky blue grass (Poa pratensis). The percent ground cover of the dominant vegetation in the meadow area was 33.2% meadow fescue (Festuca elatior), 9.9% sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), 9.2% orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata), 6.3% Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), and 5.2% red fescue. The sites were sampled again in 1999 with the major difference being the absence of white clover in the lawn areas, believed to be a result of the drought conditions in recent years. All percent ground covers for the dominant vegetation were significantly different (P<0.01) between the two mowing regimes. Species richness was higher in both years in the meadow regime (74, 62) versus the lawn regime (33, 23). Frequently mowed lawn areas may provide better grazing forage for herbivores, such as geese, rabbits, and deer, however, meadow areas may provide greater plant biomass (232 vs. 63 g/m2) and greater diversity of plant species. The meadow regime also appeared to have greater seed production and cover, which is favored by a wider variety of wildlife species, especially passerine birds and small mammals.
Additional Publication Details
Effects of two long-term mowing regimes on vegetation
Agricultural Research Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service