Plant Species Diversity and Seed Bank Diversity in Pastures of the Northeast United States
Entry ID: USDA.ARS.PSWMRL.NEPlant

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Summary
Abstract: Pasture lands are an important facet of land use in the northeast
United States, yet little is known about their diversity. Because
little information exists about the ecology of northeast pastures, we
designed a vegetation survey to answer some fundamental questions
about their species diversity. Our objectives were to document plant
richness across a broad spectrum of northeast pastures using an
intensive, multi scale sampling method and compare the richness of
northeast pasture lands with: 1) grazed grasslands in the western
United States and 2) abandoned agricultural lands in the eastern US
that had not been grazed. We also wanted to learn whether
environmental (soils or climate) or land management variables could
help explain patterns of richness. A total of 17 farms, encompassing
37 pastures, were sampled in New York , Pennsylvania, Vermont,
Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut during July and August 1998.
We positively identified a total of 161 different plant species across
the study region.Species richness averaged 31.7 ý 1.1 on pastures
and was similar to grazed grasslands in the western United States at
both 1 m2 and 1000 m2 scales. Infrequent, transient species that were
mostly perennial and annual forbs accounted for ~ 90% of the species
richness. Most studies from the eastern US report a gradual increase
in species diversity through time after crop land is abandoned from
agriculture. Our data suggests that if crop land is converted to
pasture instead species richness remains similar to that of abandoned
agricultural land during the first several years of succession.
Environmental variables (soils and climate) and land management
histories were generally poor predictors of plant richness at large
spatial scales. At the 1000 m2 scale, patterns of species richness
are best explained by the species diversity of soil seed banks, or
seed rain, and stochastic recruitment of these species into existing
vegetation.

We also evaluated the species composition of soil seed banks from nine
farms (36 pastures total) located in the northeast United States. Our
objective was to quantify the soil seed bank composition of pastures
managed for intensive grazing and hay production. Seeds from pasture
soils were allowed to germinate in a greenhouse under natural light
conditions. Seedlings were identified as they germinated, and the
experiment was concluded after four months. Germinable seed was
dominated by annual and perennial forbs most of which contributed
little useful forage for cattle. Perennial grasses, except for
bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), were largely absent from the germinable
seed bank, while legumes were more abundant. Seed bank species
composition showed little similarity to the existing vegetation.
Exceptions were bluegrass, white clover (Trifolium repens L.), and
common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Weber ex Wiggers). These
species were abundant in both the germinable seed bank and existing
vegetation on most pastures. Overall, our study suggests that seed
banks in these northeast pastures support abundant white clover and
bluegrass seed, both of which are important forages for cattle. Soil
seed banks, however, will not supply a diverse assemblage of useful
forages. If a manager seeks to establish diverse, mixed-species
pasture, then re-seeding pastures with desired mixes may be the best
option.

Geographic Coverage
 N: 44.0 S: 39.0  E: -72.0  W: -78.0

Temporal Coverage
Start Date: 1997-06-01
Stop Date: 1998-10-01


Location Keywords
CONTINENT > NORTH AMERICA > UNITED STATES OF AMERICA > CONNECTICUT
CONTINENT > NORTH AMERICA > UNITED STATES OF AMERICA > MARYLAND
CONTINENT > NORTH AMERICA > UNITED STATES OF AMERICA > MASSACHUSETTS
CONTINENT > NORTH AMERICA > UNITED STATES OF AMERICA > NEW YORK
CONTINENT > NORTH AMERICA > UNITED STATES OF AMERICA > PENNSYLVANIA
CONTINENT > NORTH AMERICA > UNITED STATES OF AMERICA > VERMONT


Science Keywords
AGRICULTURE >AGRICULTURAL PLANT SCIENCE >CROPPING SYSTEMS    [Definition]
AGRICULTURE >ANIMAL SCIENCE >ANIMAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS    [Definition]
AGRICULTURE >ANIMAL SCIENCE >ANIMAL NUTRITION    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS >AGRICULTURAL LANDS    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS >GRASSLANDS    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >VEGETATION >BIOMASS    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >VEGETATION >DOMINANT SPECIES    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS >COMMUNITY DYNAMICS >GRAZING DYNAMICS / PLANT ECOLOGY    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS >ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONS >BIOMASS DYNAMICS    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS >ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONS >PRIMARY PRODUCTION    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS >COMMUNITY DYNAMICS >COMMUNITY STRUCTURE    [Definition]


ISO Topic Category
FARMING
BIOTA
ECONOMY


Keywords
BLUEGRASS
CATTLE
COMMON DANDELION
FORAGE
FORBS
GRAZING
HAY
LEGUMES
PASTURE
PLANT SPECIES COMPOSITION
POA PRATENSIS L.
SEED BANK SPECIES COMPOSITION
SPECIES RICHNESS
TARAXACUM OFFICINALE WEBER EX WIGGERS
TRIFOLIUM REPENS L.
WHITE CLOVER


Originating Center


Data Center
Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture    [Information]
Data Center URL: http://pswmru.arsup.psu.edu/

Data Center Personnel
Name: BENJAMIN F. TRACY
Phone: 814.863.5991
Fax: 814.863.0935
Email: bft2 at psu.edu
Contact Address:
Pasture Systems and Watershed Research Lab.
USDA-ARS
Building 3702, Curtin Rd.
City: University Park
Province or State: PA
Postal Code: 16802
Country: USA



Data Center Personnel
Name: MATT A. SANDERSON
Phone: 814.865.1067
Fax: 814.863.0935
Email: mas44 at psu.edu
Contact Address:
Pasture Systems and Watershed Research Lab.
USDA-ARS
Building 3702, Curtin Rd.
City: University Park
Province or State: PA
Postal Code: 16802
Country: USA


Personnel
MATT A. SANDERSON
Role: INVESTIGATOR
Phone: 814.865.1067
Fax: 814.863.0935
Email: mas44 at psu.edu
Contact Address:
Pasture Systems and Watershed Research Lab.
USDA-ARS
Building 3702, Curtin Rd.
City: University Park
Province or State: PA
Postal Code: 16802
Country: USA


BENJAMIN F. TRACY
Role: DIF AUTHOR
Role: INVESTIGATOR
Phone: 814.863.5991
Fax: 814.863.0935
Email: bft2 at psu.edu
Contact Address:
Pasture Systems and Watershed Research Lab.
USDA-ARS
Building 3702, Curtin Rd.
City: University Park
Province or State: PA
Postal Code: 16802
Country: USA



Creation and Review Dates
DIF Creation Date: 1999-12-13
Last DIF Revision Date: 2006-02-13

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