Effects of cattle exclusion on the structure and composition of riparian vegetation were observed in a 2-yr study in southeastern Kansas. The study was conducted within riparian habitats on the 5,263-ha Kansas Army Ammunition Plant in north-central Labette County, Kansas. Three grazed and three ungrazed riparian areas were sampled in 1996 and 1997 to monitor vegetation changes in response to livestock exclusion. Total understory, grass, and litter cover were significantly different between the grazed and ungrazed study sites with mean cover estimates being higher (16.3%, 14%, and 12.1% greater respectively) in the ungrazed sites. A significant difference in the percentage of bare ground was observed between the grazed (24.6%) and ungrazed (12.5%) study sites. No difference in herbaceous vegetation height was detected between study sites in 1996. In 1997, mean herbaceous vegetation height differed significantly from 1996 (study sites combined) and was greater (95.6 cm vs. 65.6 cm) in the ungrazed study sites. Excluding cattle from closed canopy riparian woodlands in southeastern Kansas resulted in a positive short-term response of understory herbaceous vegetation. Our results suggest that riparian fencing may be an effective management tool for restoring understory vegetation in riparian communities grazed by cattle in the eastern Great Plains.
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Vol. 104 • No. 3