Master of Science
Xiaoyong Chen, Ph.D.
Mary E. Carrington, Ph.D.
Timothy Gsell, Ph.D.
Prairie ecosystems used to dominate Illinois’ landscapes, providing some of the most organically rich soils in the world, supplying homes to hundreds of native species, and conserving soil and water. The deep rooted forbs prevent water runoff and soil erosion. Economically the prairies have provided medicines, commercial forbs, and aesthetically pleasing landscapes for humans. Society is dependent on the rich soils these prairies have provided for agriculture and for prevention of erosion and water runoff. With less than one tenth of one percent of Illinois prairies still remaining, successful prairie restoration is of the utmost importance. In order to achieve the highest quality prairie that consists of the most diverse communities, researchers and prairie managers need to continue to revise best management practices. Currently prairie managers introduce grasses and forbs by seeding disturbed areas and then manage the prairie year to year with a mixture of pesticides and prairie fires to control weed growth. The drawback to this method is that it may take decades to achieve maximum species diversity for each site, leaving community residents frustrated at the slow growth of colorful forbs. This study aimed to improve the growth rate of forb species in restored prairies by analyzing best practices on agricultural fields in Will County, Illinois. In this study, three management approaches were employed to examine the relationships between prairie restoration process and species diversity. The three management approaches were seeding with grasses and forbs (SGF), seeding with grasses and hand planting forbs (SGH), and neither seeding nor hand planting grasses or forbs (NSG). The results showed that in the NSG treatment (also the control treatment) relatively few plants dominate the community. Most of these species, including giant foxtail, dandelion and Canadian thistle, had Coefficient of Conservatism (C) values of 2 and below. The SGH treatment and the SGF treatment had a better representation of species, including giant foxtail, black eyed susan, purple prairie clover, new England aster and wild bergamot. C values averaged approximately 5 in these treatments. Floristic Quality Index (FQI) values were below 20 for all three treatments but the SGH treatment was the highest with an FQI value of 8.56 compared to 8.24 for the SGF treatment and 6.14 for the NSG treatment. A statistically significant difference exists between sampling years 2009 and 2010 (F1,27 =65.54, p2,27=168.85, p2,27=4.22, p
Widinski, Julie A., "Prairie Restoration and Species Diversity: A Comparison of Propagation Success Between Seeded and Planted Forbs" (2011). All Student Theses. 39.