Technical Report


Controlling woody vegetation in wetland prairies, 1994-1999 Public Deposited

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  • Wetland prairies of the Willamette Valley, among the rarest of Oregon’s ecosystems, are threatened by invasion of woody species and non-native pest species. Because fire has been important in maintaining Willamette Valley prairies for at least 1000 years, prescribed burning is a top choice of managers for preventing encroachment of woody species. However, the effects of prescribed burning on present day wetland prairie communities, with their mix of native and non-native species, are not clear. Moreover, because strict governmental requirements for smoke management hinder prescribed burning, natural-area managers are considering alternatives to fire, like mowing and hand removal of woody plants. The present study explored the ecological interactions of a wetland prairie by experimentally testing the responses of burning, hand-removal of woody species, and mowing with removal of cut material on woody plants and key native and non-native grasses and forbs. We evaluated these perturbations for their effectiveness in meeting management objectives of reducing abundance of woody species, reducing or preventing an increase in abundance of nonnative pest species, and increasing or at least maintaining native species’ abundance. After three treatments periods (1994, 1996, and 1998) the following patterns emerged: • Woody species Burning and hand-removal consistently caused the greatest reduction in cover of woody species. Mowing with removal of cut material did not reduce the abundance of woody species compared to the control. As woody plant cover decreased, plant mortality increased, indicating that treatments influenced woody plant cover at least partially through changes in survival. • Native herbaceous species All management treatments consistently failed to significantly increase the cover of Deschampsia cespitosa, while burning decreased the number of inflorescences. As a group, native graminoid flowering consistently showed no significant responses to the management treatments. Although burning and hand-removal significantly increased the cover of native forbs as group after the second treatment period in 1997, native forbs showed no significant responses to treatments in 1999. • Non-native herbaceous species Response of non-native forb cover to management treatments has been inconsistent during the five year study period with no significant differences in 1995, significant reductions by burning and hand-removal in 1997, and increases with mowing in 1997. Mowing consistently increased flowering of nonnative graminoids as a group. Overall no treatment was clearly superior in fulfilling restoration objectives. Burning was effective in reducing woody cover and did not promote non-native herbaceous, but it reduced the flowering the dominant native grass, Deschampsia cespitosa. Hand-removal woody species was also effective at reducing woody cover and sometimes promoted the abundance of some native species at different times, but it also at times promoted non-native herbaceous species. Because mowing with removal of cut material was ineffective in reducing woody cover and tended to promote non-native herbaceous species, this treatment is not a recommended management strategy.
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Peer Reviewed
File Extent
  • 40 pages
Additional Information
  • Project No. HE-P99-0019
  • Submitted to Coast Range Resource Area, Bureau of Land Management, Eugene, Oregon.



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