Vegetative Forage Quality and Moist-soil Management on Wetlands Reserve Program Lands in Mississippi
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- Fleming, K.S., Kaminski, R.M., Tietjen, T.E. et al. Wetlands (2012) 32: 919. doi:10.1007/s13157-012-0325-5
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The Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) prescribes management of vegetation in moist-soil wetlands for waterfowl and other wildlife. This study used a block design on 18 sites in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) in Mississippi to evaluate effectiveness of management prescriptions. Objectives were to determine appropriate timing of vegetation surveys and whether vegetation community metrics on private lands differed among management strategies (2008–2009): 1) active (e.g., annual soil disturbance), early drawdown of standing water (i.e., by 15 June), 2) active, late drawdown (≥3 weeks after early drawdown), and 3) passive, natural evaporation. A Vegetative Forage Quality Index (VFQI) was developed to assess quality of plant communities as forage for waterfowl. The study examined VFQI, plant community diversity and richness, percent (%) occurrence of grass, % woody species, and mean number of plant life-forms among management categories (α = 0.10). Plant community metrics were measured June–October but only October metrics revealed differences in both years (p ≤ 0.09). Active-early had the greatest VFQI, diversity, mean number of plant life-forms, and percent abundance of grasses in October 2008 and 2009 (p ≤ 0.07). Results suggest that quality forage for waterfowl may be achieved through active management with early draw-down.