The Rainwater Basin region in Nebraska is critically important stopover habitat for spring waterfowl migrations, but the ability of these sites to produce sufficient food for migrating waterfowl is endangered by the invasion of reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.). This species produces thick litter layers and abundant aboveground biomass, reducing germination and seedling survival of the annual plant species responsible for much of the seed production in the area. Cattle grazing often is used as a management tool in the Rainwater Basin to slow or reverse reed canarygrass invasion and to improve growing conditions for more desirable plant species. However, there has been little research on the impact of grazing on these factors. We studied the impacts of one-time, early-season (between April and June) cattle grazing on the abundance of reed canarygrass, bare ground, and litter. We hypothesized that cattle grazing would result in reduced reed canarygrass by the end of the 2-yr study, and that grazing would increase the abundance of bare ground and decrease the abundance of litter. Because grazing was expected to improve conditions for seed germination, we expected to find higher species richness in grazed areas. We found that grazing did not reduce the abundance of reed canarygrass, but the application of early-season grazing for two consecutive years did reduce litter and increase bare ground. Litter abundance decreased by 7.5% in ungrazed plots and litter increased by 8.6% in grazed plots. Bare ground in grazed plots increased 10.7% in grazed plots but decreased 1.2% in ungrazed plots. Species richness was not affected by grazing during this study. We concluded that grazing, as utilized in this study, is not sufficient to reduce reed canarygrass abundance, but can be used to mitigate some of the negative impacts of reed canarygrass invasion.
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