Sowing more species-rich native seed mixes enhance establishment of target prairie communities on former agricultural land adjoining Bethel College campus, Kansas, USA

  • Published source details Piper J.K., Schmidt E.S. & Janzen A.J. (2007) Effects of species richness on resident and target species components in a prairie restoration. Restoration Ecology, 15, 189-198


A study was undertakenadjacent to Bethel College campus, Kansas (central USA; 8°05′N, 97°20′W) to assess if by increasing the number of native species sown on former agricultural land, this would be more likely to create a persistent species-rich prairie plant community.

In February 2000, the pre-existing wheat stubble was disked and the soil harrowed. There were 12 treatments: 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 8-, 12- and 16-species mixtures of native perennials representing four groups (four each of C4 (warm season) grasses, C3 (cool season) grasses, nitrogen-fixers (Fabaceae and Mimosaceae), and late-flowering Asteraceae). No sown species was present at or adjacent to the site prior to sowing.
On 8 April, seed was hand broadcast into 6 x 6 m plots (5 replicates/treatment; randomized complete block design, each block containing all 12 treatments).
To help control weeds, plots were mown (to 10 cm height) in June 2000, April and June 2001, and November or December 2002, 2003 and 2004. Each July, total species richness and evenness, sown species richness and cover, and that of non-sown species, was recorded.

Sown species richness was highest and rate of establishment of target communities best, in the most species-rich mixes (8-16 species), but there was no additional benefit of sowing more than eight species. Non-sown species richness did not vary with sown species richness, but their cover was lower in the higher species treatments.
These results indicate that re-creation of a species-rich prairie community was enhanced by sowing with larger numbers of native species.

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