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Effects on Nesting of Grassland Birds Due to Leafy Spurge Infestation

 Doug Johnson

Question 1. What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it?

We are addressing how infestation of leafy spurge in certain grasslands may affect the use of those grasslands by breeding birds, and the reproductive success of those birds.

Question 2. How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?

Grassland birds are a major conservation concern. Populations of many species in that group have been declining, for a variety of reasons, some of which likely involve degradation of breeding habitat (grassland) in the northern Great Plains. It is important to determine if the widespread infestation of leafy spurge is a contributor to habitat degradation. Learning that it is will encourage the broad constituency of individuals and agencies involved with birds conservation to take a stronger interest in spurge control.

Question 3. How does it relate to the National Program(s) and National Program Component(s)?

The TEAM Leafy Spurge project is a part of the USDA/ARS Area-Wide Management Program. It is a component of Crop and Commodity Pest Biology, Control and Quarantine (304). TEAM Leafy Spurge complements efforts to develop new and improved pest control technologies and assess component technologies for integrated pest management (IPM) systems.

Question 4. What was your most significant accomplishment this past year?

We conducted surveys on breeding birds on a number of sites in the Sheyenne National Grassland in southeastern North Dakota. Sites were in one of three classes of spurge infestation: low, medium, and high. Occurrences and densities of various species will be compared among those classes. In addition, we searched for and monitored nests of breeding birds at sites in each class. The density of nests and their success will be compared among classes.

Question 5. Describe your major accomplishments over the life of the project, including their predicted or actual impact.

Final analyses have not been completed, but preliminary work suggests that spurge has an effect on certain species.

Question 6. What do you expect to accomplish year by year, over the next three years?

The major remaining goals are to determine 1) if even higher levels of spurge infestation have even greater impacts on grasslands birds, and 2) to examine the effects in different part of the northern Great Plains, where different grassland bird species occur.

Question 7. What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology?

One Masterís thesis (by Daniel Scheiman) has resulted from the first yearís work, but final reports await analysis of data from the second year. That activity is proceeding now, and results are expected by the time of the October meeting.

Question 8. List your most important publications in the popular press (no abstracts) and presentations to non-scientific organizations, and articles written about your work (NOTE: this does not replace your peer-reviewed publications which are listed below).

Popular presentations will be made following analysis of the second yearís data.

Question 9. Scientific publications

Scheiman, Daniel M. 2000. Effects of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) infestation on breeding birds of the Sheyenne National Grassland. ND. M.S. thesis. Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL.

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