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Data from: Evaluation of mowing frequency on right-of-way plant communities in Mississippi

Citation

Entsminger, Edward D. et al. (2017), Data from: Evaluation of mowing frequency on right-of-way plant communities in Mississippi, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.960dh

Abstract

Abstract: Native grasses and native wildflowers are declining, especially along roadside right-of-ways due to intensive mowing and herbicide management practices. Roadside right-of-ways undergo regular disturbances such as mowing, maintenance, and road developments that affect soils, groundwater, surface hydrology, and vegetation composition. We investigated species richness and percent coverage within plant communities along highway right-of-ways to determine if reduced mowing increased native plant coverage. The study was conducted using 10 research plots situated along Highway 25 in Oktibbeha and Winston counties, Mississippi. Each research plots consisted of three different treatments as follows: one that included greater than four mowings per year, one mowing only in fall, and one mowing only in fall with a supplemental native wildflower seeding. Using line transect sampling, we detected 277 plant species, which included native and non-native forbs, legumes, grasses, rushes, sedges, and woody perennials (vines, shrubs, and trees). Total percent coverage of native and non-native plants within different growth form categories did not differ among treatments (F2, 96 = 0.45, P = 0.83). However, coverage differed between uplands and lowlands (F1, 96 = 18.22, P {less than or equal to} 0.001), between years (F1, 96 = 14.54, P {less than or equal to} 0.001), between fall and spring seasons (F1, 96 = 16.25, P {less than or equal to} 0.001), and interacted between years and seasons (F1, 96 = 24.08, P {less than or equal to} 0.001) and seasons and elevations (F1, 96 = 5.00, P {less than or equal to} 0.001). Non-native agronomic grasses exhibited the greatest coverage ({greater than or equal to}90%) in all treatments. Percent coverage of each plant growth form was greatest in lowlands. Our research showed an increase of native grasses and wildflower species along roadsides with a reduced mowing regimen. We concluded that the timing and intensity of mowing for the duration of our study had little effect on the species composition of plant communities. However, one mowing per year retained agronomic plant coverage for erosion control and soil stabilization during roadside maintenance. Specific proactive management implementations can include native plantings, selective herbicide use to decrease non-native grasses, continual mowing from roadside edge to 10 meters (m), and only one mowing in late fall, but with an extension of the boundary to reach beyond 10 m from the roadside edge to suppress the invasion of woody plants, which could lead to lower long-term maintenance costs.

Usage Notes

Location

northeastern Mississippi