Herbaceous vegetation comprises the main habitat type in cool-seasons grasslands and can be managed by various methods. We compared changes in plant communities and bird and mammal use of grasslands that were not managed, managed by mechanical methods (mowing), or managed by chemical methods (plant growth regulator). This 1-year study was conducted from May through October 2003 in Erie County, Ohio. Twelve circular 1.5 ha plots were established: 4 were not managed, 4 were mowed to maintain vegetation height between 9–15 cm, and 4 were sprayed with a plant growth regulator and mowed when vegetation exceeded 15 cm. We monitored vegetation growth, measured plant community composition, and observed all plots for wildlife activity each week. Vegetation in unmanaged plots was taller and denser (P < 0.001) than vegetation in mowed and growth regulator plots. Plant community characteristics differed among study plots (P < 0.001); managed plots had higher grass cover and lower woody cover than unmanaged plots. We observed more (P < 0.001) total birds per 5-minute survey in unmanaged than mowed or growth regulator plots. We observed more (P < 0.001) white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in mowed plots than either control or growth regulator plots. We captured 13 small mammals in unmanaged plots and no small mammals in managed plots. Applying the plant growth regulator was not a cost-effective alternative to mowing for managing vegetation height in our study. Vegetation height management practices altered plant communities and animal use of grassland areas and thus might be useful for accomplishing species-specific habitat management objectives.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3