Submitted to: US-International Association for Landscape Ecology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/30/2005
Publication Date: 3/28/2006
Citation: Goslee, S.C., Gonet, J.M., Sanderson, M.A. 2006. Spatial and temporal variability in species composition in temperate pastures [abstract]. US-International Association for Landscape Ecology. p. 66.
Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: The grazing lands of the northeastern United States are good model systems for studying plant community characteristics because the major species tend to be well-understood, management can be characterized, and because improved understanding of the ecology of these systems can lead to immediate environmental and economic effects. We sampled pastures on five farms - two each in New York and Pennsylvania, and one in Maryland - in the spring, summer and autumn of 2004 and 2005. We used the multiscale modified Whittaker plot to characterize the plant communities of 5-7 pastures on each farm. Plot locations were recorded with a GPS so that the same plot could be resampled at each date. For each plot, species lists were made in areas of 1000m2, 100m2, and 10m2 (2 plots), and cover was recorded by species in 10 quadrats of 1m2. We found 196 plant species during two years of sampling, although most of these species were rare. Bray-Curtis dissimilarity was used to compare species abundance between sites, and Jaccard distance was used to compare species presence. Sites within the same farm were more similar in composition than in abundance, and more similar at larger scales. Seasonal differences within a plot were less than those between plots on the same farm, especially at smaller scales. Overall differences in plant community composition between farms were similar at all scales. Our results reveal a complex spatial and temporal structure within the plant communities of pastures. It may be possible to modify pasture management to take advantage of this complexity, and to improve the productivity and sustainability of grazing lands in the northeastern United States.