Conservation of Sidalcea nelsoniana through habitat management : effects of burning, mowing, and altered flooding regime on a rare Willamette Valley perennial Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/w3763b08f

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  • Active habitat management plays a key role in the preservation of native ecosystems and rare species, especially in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, where natural succession to woodlands threatens the few wetland prairies remaining after 150 years of agriculture and urbanization. Sidalcea nelsoniana, listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, is native to these wetland prairies. The studies described here provide basic information about the habitat requirements and tolerances of S. nelsoniana while testing for the first time the impact of specific management techniques on its growth and reproduction. The effects of prescribed burning and mowing on S. nelsoniana and its habitat were investigated in a field population at W.L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis, Oregon. Measurements of S. nelsoniana and aspects of the surrounding vegetation were recorded during the summer of 1998 within 112 permanent S. nelsoniana-centered quadrats. Burning and mowing treatments were applied in the fall of 1998 and the same measurements of S. nelsoniana and the surrounding vegetation were recorded during the summer of 1999. Treatments had no direct effects on S. nelsoniana performance, but burning and mowing reduced canopy cover, a primary goal of prairie maintenance and restoration. Because perennials often respond slowly to changes in habitat, effects of these manipulations may be more evident in future years. Wetland species may also be sensitive to site hydrology, so maintaining the proper water regime is another important component of wetland prairie management and restoration. A second experimental study evaluated the flooding tolerance of S. nelsoniana. Rhizome fragments were transplanted into pots exposed to four flooding conditions: drained soil, saturated soil with no standing water, standing water from mid-November through mid-April and standing water from mid-November through mid-June. Plants with drained soil died as the spring rains declined, and plants flooded past April died by mid-June. Plants in saturated soils and those flooded until mid-April were most successful. These two treatments most closely match conditions found in Willamette Valley wetland prairies, including S. nelsoniana sites, and suggest that the current distribution of S. nelsoniana approximately matches its hydrologic requirements. Management plans to flood a S. nelsoniana site beyond mid-April might harm this protected species.
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