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M.S. Thesis Defense - Nolan Sipe

Ecological Impacts of Restoring Fire-Grazing Interaction in Sandhills Prairie through Patch-Burn Grazing

9:00 am – 10:00 am
Keim Hall Room: 150
1825 N 38th St
Lincoln NE 68503
Additional Info: KEIM
Virtual Location: Zoom Webinar
Target Audiences:
Craig Allen,
A Collaborative Adaptive Management (CAM) Project was started at the University of Nebraska in 2020 to address some of key uncertainties related to the management of grasslands in the Nebraska Sandhills through stakeholder driven experiments and the adaptive management cycle. Patch-burn grazing was selected by CAM as a management tool to generate heterogeneity across the landscape and promote biodiversity while balancing economic and ecological trade-offs. The patch-burn grazing system was implemented with controlled burns in May of 2022 and March of 2023. The goal of the research present here is to understand how the use of patch-burn grazing impacts several ecological aspects of the Nebraska Sandhills. Specifically, this study asks three things 1) does patch-durn grazing negatively impact soil conditions by increasing soil erosion and depleting the thin topsoil of nutrients in burned areas, 2) is patch-burn grazing able to significantly change vegetation structure and promote vegetation heterogeneity, and 3) how does patch-burn grazing affect avian communities, abundance, and species diversity in the Sandhills? Comparison of soil conditions between burned and unburned was made using the change of soil height at installed erosion pins and a series of soil nutrient panels samples taken in the months following the fire. Vegetation structural metrics and function group covers were measured throughout each field in the study. A nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordinal analysis supported by a pairwise comparison using permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMNOVA) was used to examine the difference in vegetation structure between each of the fields in this study. Bird point counts were performed in each field throughout the two years of this study. This data was used to calculate and compare species diversity, community, and the abundance of a few select species. NMDS and PERMNOVA were used to explore the difference between fields in the composition of the avian communities, while N-mixture models were used to estimate abundance. This study provides an understanding of how patch-burn grazing, an under-utilized tool in the Nebraska Sandhills, can be used to support a more heterogeneous and resilient grassland.

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This event originated in SNR Seminars & Discussions.