Methods for Increasing Biodiversity in Tallgrass Prairie Reconstructions

EPA Grant Number: R825796
Title: Methods for Increasing Biodiversity in Tallgrass Prairie Reconstructions
Investigators: Jurik, Thomas W. , Moloney, Kirk
Institution: Iowa State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: January 1, 1998 through December 31, 2000 (Extended to September 30, 2001)
Project Amount: $243,019
RFA: Ecosystem Restoration (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Land and Waste Management , Ecosystems


The prairies of the Midwestern U.S. have largely been destroyed and replaced by agricultural fields. However, we are now much more aware of the value of the prairie ecosystem as an environmentally stable landscape that provides a variety of environmental, economic, and aesthetic benefits. Thus, there is widespread interest in reconstructing prairie vegetation, both in large tracts and along roadsides. However, many prairie species, particularly species other than grasses (forbs), are relatively difficult to establish from seed, which is usually the only feasible method of planting. This project will investigate methods of increasing plant diversity in prairie reconstructions, with emphases on incorporation of minor disturbances and natural spatial patterns into the reconstruction process.


This project will investigate the impact of several factors on species diversity during prairie reconstructions: 1. different methods of planting seeds, 2. plant height at mowing (to reduce competition from weeds) during the first three seasons after planting, 3. the introduction of minor disturbances as sites for establishment of forb seedlings in grass-dominated areas, and 4. introduction of spatial patterns found in natural prairies. Field studies will be conducted at Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge--Prairie Learning Center near Prairie City, IA, where reconstruction of an extensive (3500 ha) prairie is underway. Effects of each treatment on plant species diversity will be monitored over three years.

Expected Results:

The experiments will provide a matrix of results that can be used to assess the effects of the various treatments on the process of reconstruction. In terms of management, the results will be applicable to a variety of goals. Some reconstruction projects may wish to emphasize maximal diversity, while others may wish to focus on establishing certain species, or grasses only, or forbs in general, etc. The results here should indicate, in general, how a particular end point may be reached. Thus, this project should be useful both from a basic ecological point of view, by contributing to a general understanding of how establishment of various species is affected by manipulations of the environment, and from an applied perspective pertinent to a variety of prairie reconstruction projects. The project should provide improved methods of establishing prairie reconstructions throughout the Midwest, with emphasis on increasing biodiversity of reconstructions.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 16 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 4 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

ecosystem, restoration, terrestrial, ecology, Midwest, Iowa, IA, prairie., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Midwest, Restoration, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, ecological exposure, biodiversity, ecology, diversity, wildlife, regional species diversity, prairie reconstruction, ecosystem effects, Tallgrass Prairie reconstruction, conservation, plant diversity, Iowa (IA), ecological recovery, terrestrial, ecosystem, economic, prairie vegetation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • Final Report