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Effects of Grazing and Burning on Densities and
Habitats of Breeding Ducks in North Dakota

Introduction


Native grassland communities controlled by public agencies in the northern Great Plains are becoming increasingly important for the maintenance of wildlife species as privately owned grasslands are destroyed or degraded by farming, mining, and development. Grasslands that are idled or unmanaged become dominated by native brush species such as western snowberry and silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata) and exotic grass species such as smooth brome (Bromus inermis) and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and are believed to be of lesser value to wildlife (Kirsch et al. 1978). Grasslands occurring on national wildlife refuges are often subjected to management practices (e.g., grazing, haying, and burning) intended to maintain or improve the health and vigor of the native grassland flora for the benefit of wildlife species, especially waterfowl. However, the effects of these grassland management practices on vegetation communities and dependent wildlife are not adequately understood (Holechek et al. 1982, Kadlec and Smith 1992). The purpose of our study was to evaluate the effects of grazing and prescribed burning on the nest density and nest success of breeding ducks and on the structure and type of vegetation in which they nest. We focused on management practices that have been recommended to improve the vigor of the native grassland flora and reduce the abundance of woody species on public lands such as national wildlife refuges in the northern Great Plains. We studied 4 multi-year management regimens that consisted of burning, grazing and/or rest. We tested the hypothesis that there was no effect of the treatments, years, or treatment-year interaction on waterfowl nest density or nest success.
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