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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?

The major problem being addressed is the extensive infestation of native grassland communities by leafy spurge, and the unknown consequences of such infestation on populations of breeding birds that rely on those grasslands. We are addressing the problem by comparing breeding-bird populations on grasslands with different degrees of infestation (none or very slight, moderate, and severe).

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

Many species of grassland birds have suffered severe population declines in the past few decades. Loss and deterioration of their breeding habitat is considered the major factor in those declines. It is critical that remaining grassland be maintained in suitable condition for those birds, if their populations are to be sustained. Understanding the impacts of leafy spurge infestation on their populations is an important first step.

Question 3: How does it relate to the National Program(s) and National Program Component(s) to which it has been assigned?

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?

Study sites with different degrees of infestation were selected and demarked on the Sheyenne National Grassland. Censuses of breeding birds were conducted from late May through early July. A number of vegetation measurements were made with standard protocols in each study plot.

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

The first of two field seasons was conducted during 1999, so accomplishments during the life of the project are the same as those during the past year. Analysis of the first year’s data is currently ongoing. Results of the study are expected to provide managers, biologists, and the general public with a clearer understanding of the effects of leafy spurge on a valued natural resource, grassland-dependent birds.

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

The second field season is planned for the year 2000, following which a thesis and scientific publications will be prepared. In addition, extension and popular articles will be prepared, as appropriate.
Question 7: What technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the technology likely to become available to the end user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption durability of the technology?

Since we only have results from one year, and those have not been completely analyzed, it would be premature to be transferring technologies at this time. Depending on the final results and conclusions from the study, we anticipate providing relevant information to grassland managers, including those in the public sector as well as ranchers, and to scientists and the conservation community.

Question 8: List your most important publications and presentations, and articles written about your work.

A preliminary report on the first year of the study was presented at the 1999 annual meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union, held at Ithaca, New York.

Question 9: Scientific/Peer-Reviewed Publications

None to date.
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