Native Warm Season Grassland Restoration
There are a variety of separate projects in our lab that deal with native grassland restorations and also incorporate tall fescue and its fungal endophyte symbiosis. Former PhD student, Sarah Hall, completed her dissertation on this topic. Sarah conducted three studies to examine whether endophyte-infected (E+) tall fescue plants respond differently to restoration management than endophyte-free (E-) plants, and whether the success of planted native species might be impacted via indirect soil effects. She found little evidence that endophyte infection status altered tall fescue effects on restoration success (Hall et al.2012). Ben Leffew, a former MS student, added to Sarah's work by exploring how spatial patterns of tall fescue cover vary across an 80 acre pasture currently undergoing native warm season grassland restoration and whether fescue cover post-restoration is correlated with environmental factors, such as depth to bedrock, soil nutrient availability and texture, biotic factors (e.g., rodent granivory and pre-restoration fungal endophyte infection frequency within the tall fescue community), or restoration management factors (e.g., heat of fire during burning, variability in herbicide application, and/or native reseeding success). We have been involved with similar work occurring in the Grand River Grasslands of southwestern Iowa for a few years now as well. Here, tall fescue is officially considered invasive, and managers try to control it by using patch-burn grazing (also called pyric herbivory). In this project, we are investigating the potential of the fire and grazing interaction to alter endophyte infection rates of tall fescue and/or reduce tall fescue abundance and therefore mitigate symptomatic fescue toxicosis of cattle grazing pastures invaded by tall fescue. Collaborators on the project are also monitoring effects of patch-burn grazing on plant community, bird and insect diversity.
Ruffner, M.E., R.L. McCulley, J.A. Nelson, and T.G. Barnes. 2012. Invasion by exotic Old World bluestem grasses alters ecosystem function of a South Texas coastal prairie. Biological Invasions 14:1483-1500.
Hall, S.L., R.L. McCulley, and R.J. Barney. 2012. Restoration of native warm season grassland species in a tall fescue pasture using prescribed fire and herbicides. Restoration Ecology 20:194-201.
Please contact Rebecca for copies.