We investigated the effects of prescribed fire, herbicide treatment, and sod removal on the eradication of exotic grasses and the establishment of native plant species in 24 experimental restoration plots in three razed residential sites within the boundary of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. During 1992-1995, herbicide treatment and sod removal decreased the combined cover of Poa pratensis (Kentucky blue grass) and Agropyron repens (quackgrass) significantly (from 82% to 13%, and 85% to 8%, respectively), whereas fire did not suppress such exotic lawn grasses. In 1993, several opportunistic species, represented by Cyperus spp. (umbrella sedges), Digitaria sanguinalis (crab grass), and Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed), filled the gaps left by the removal of lawn grasses. For the same period, Detrended Correspondence Analysis revealed a clear vegetation divergence between the control-fire plots and the herbicide-sod removal plots. While Poa pratensis and Agropyron repens continued to dominate the control and fire plots, the planted native species, represented by Schizachyrium scoparium (little blue-stem), Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass), Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed susan), and Monarda punctata (horsemint), began to dominate in the herbicide and sod removal plots from 1994. In both herbicide and sod removal plots, the ground cover of grasses (68%) was much higher than the forbs (10%). The herbicide plots, where exotic species were removed but nitrogen-rich top soils were not removed, showed a higher diversity of planted native species than the sod removal plots (where both exotic species and top soils were removed) and the control-fire plots (where neither was removed). This finding suggests that an optimum but not excessive concentration of soil nitrogen is needed to support a maximum species diversity in such infertile substrate as sandy soil. In addition, the decrease in potassium in all plots, regardless of treatment, suggests that potassium may become a limiting factor for our restored native vegetation.
Additional publication details
Experimental restoration of native vegetation in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore