The western prairie fringed-orchid is a rare North American orchid restricted to a few remnants of wet to mesic tallgrass prairie. It is federally listed in both Canada and the United States and both countries have developed a recovery plan for the species. Two key management objectives are to monitor population trends and identify beneficial management practices. We used 21 y of data from the Manitoba metapopulation to assess effects of weather and land management on this species. Our results suggest the metapopulation in Manitoba is relatively stable. Western prairie fringed-orchids appear to benefit most from a combination of warm temperatures in the previous growing season followed by cool snowy but short winters and wet springs. Periodic burning (e.g., every 2–3 y) may benefit fringed-orchids, whereas grazing may be detrimental. This was not a controlled experiment, however, and gaps in the data may have influenced our results. Prescribed burning is a viable management tool for curtailing woody invasion and both burning and grazing reduce litter and grass cover, but careful consideration of timing, frequency, and intensity of application is required so management does not hinder fringed-orchid reproduction or reduce survival, while also recognizing management requirements may vary among years depending on weather. Long-term studies are particularly valuable for the western prairie fringed-orchid due to its erratic life cycle and fluctuating populations, which complicate studies of environmental and management effects on this species.
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