In recent years, agricultural producers and non-governmental organizations and agencies have restored thousands of hectares of cropland to grassland in the Great Plains of the United States. However, little is known about the relationships between richness and seeding density in these restorations and resistance to invasive plant species. We assessed the effects of richness and seeding density on resistance to invasive and other unseeded plant species in experimental tallgrass prairie plots in central Nebraska. In 2006, twenty-four 55 m × 55 m plots were planted with six replicates in each of four treatments: high richness (97 species typically planted by The Nature Conservancy), at low and high seeding densities, and low richness (15 species representing a typical Conservation Reserve Program mix, CP25), at low and high seeding densities. There was a significant negative relationship between richness and basal cover of unseeded perennial forbs/legumes and unseeded perennial/annual grasses, abundance of bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), and the number of inflorescences removed from smooth brome (Bromus inermis) transplants. Invasion resistance may have been higher in the high richness treatments because of the characteristics of the dominant species in these plots or because of greater interspecific competition for limiting resources among forbs/legumes with neighboring plants belonging to the same functional group. Seeding density was not important in affecting invasion resistance, except in the cover of unseeded grasses. Increasing seed mix richness may be more effective than increasing the seeding density for decreasing invasion by unseeded perennial species, bull thistle, and smooth brome.
Additional publication details
Influence of richness and seeding density on invasion resistance in experimental tallgrass prairie restorations
The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit