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Vegetative Forage Quality and Moist-soil Management on Wetlands Reserve Program Lands in Mississippi

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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.

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Funding was provided by the NRCS, Agriculture Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), partnered with the Gulf Coast-Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit, and the Mississippi State University (MSU) Forest and Wildlife Research Center (FWRC) through the MSU Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture (WFA). The project was a Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit Agreement Number: 68-7482-9-500. The project was entitled, “Evaluating actively and passively managed moist-soil wetlands enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley”. E. Hackett (AWCC) and K. Nelms (NRCS, Greenwood, MS) provided logistical and technical support. In-kind support was provided by Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Southern Regional Office, Ridgeland, MS. Support and cooperation from 18 private WRP landowners and hunt clubs ensured project completion. Drs. W. Burger and S. Riffell provided statistical guidance. Drs. J. Jones and V. Maddox assisted with plant identification, and R. Hardman assisted with vegetative surveys. J. Callicut, J. Cheshier, Dr. H. Hagy, Dr. J. Madsen, and J. Straub provided additional support. This manuscript has been approved for publication as Forest and Wildlife Research Center journal article WF358.

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Correspondence to K. Sarah Fleming.



Table 3.

Table 3 Moist-soil plant species or genera observed during vegetation surveys on Mississippi Wetlands Reserve Program lands (n = 54 wetlands) and their mean (\( \overline x \)) waterfowl forage quality coefficient values (C), based on rankings by 14 waterfowl and wetland experts, 2008–2009

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Fleming, K.S., Kaminski, R.M., Tietjen, T.E. et al. Vegetative Forage Quality and Moist-soil Management on Wetlands Reserve Program Lands in Mississippi. Wetlands 32, 919–929 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-012-0325-5

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  • Management
  • Moist-soil wetland
  • Vegetative Forage Quality Index
  • Waterfowl
  • Wetlands Reserve Program