Environmental Management

, Volume 63, Issue 6, pp 789–803 | Cite as

Evaluating Composition and Conservation Value of Roadside Plant Communities in a Grassland Biome

  • Jonathan M. Soper
  • Edward J. RaynorEmail author
  • Carol Wienhold
  • Walter H. Schacht


In the context of roadside revegetation activities in rural regions, revegetation objectives commonly are to establish plant communities with a diversity of species that would otherwise be absent on the predominantly agricultural landscape. To determine the efficacy of revegetation in providing plant communities of high biodiversity value, we quantified species richness, floristic quality, and success in seeding efforts. We evaluated the outcome of roadside seedings conducted by Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) for five NDOT landscape regions spanning Nebraska. Our assessment occurred on average 13.2 years (range: 10–17) post-revegetation, thus, providing insight into what established plant communities can be expected after a decade or more. Biomass production declined on an east to west gradient, but the component species responsible for this gradient were unique to each region. We found species richness was greatest in the western regions of Nebraska with the Sandhills supporting the highest richness. This rangeland-dominated region exhibited the highest floristic quality index, a tool commonly used to identify areas of high conservation value. Our findings indicate that the roadside vegetation is landscape-dependent in that neighboring plant communities influence botanical composition of roadside vegetation. Thus, less diverse seeding mixtures could be used on roadsides with a diversity of desirable native plant species in neighboring land (i.e., Sandhills rangeland). Conversely, in roadsides surrounded by cropland or plant communities with many non-native, weedy species, seeding complex mixtures with a diversity of desirable and highly competitive native species is likely necessary. Nebraska roadsides are viewed as a resource where plant communities with a diversity of native grassland species can be established; however, persistence of many seeded, native species is minimal (mostly forbs) because of the competiveness of both seeded and invasive grasses.


Backslope Establishment Floristic quality index Invasive species Roadside vegetation Sandhills 



We thank employees of the Nebraska Department of Transportation for their field work and help in assembling expected rank of regional plant communities. Kelly Brink, Ben Schiltz, Jessica Shortino, Ryan Brock, Ben Beckman, Justin Hladik, and Samantha Bray for their assistance with data collection. We thank Mitch Stephenson and Jerry Volesky for reviewing a previous version of this manuscript. This project was possible with funding from the Nebraska Department of Transportation (Award # RHE-07) and the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

267_2019_1154_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Supplementary Information.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agronomy and HorticultureUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  2. 2.Nebraska Department of TransportationLincolnUSA

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