Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program:
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources


Adaptive management of prairie remnants for legacy goals

May 2009 - May 2012


Participating Agencies

Purpose. The Southeast Nebraska Flagship Initiative is a collaborative partnership aimed at the conservation of biological diversity and at-risk species in four priority areas in the southeast corner of the state. The partnership was formed through the Nebraska Natural Legacy Program and includes The Nature Conservancy, Northern Prairies Land Trust, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Within the partnership there are focus groups for outreach, private lands habitat work, and research/evaluation; each incorporate other partner organizations. The Research and Evaluation focus group currently includes faculty from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska Omaha, as well as scientists from the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, The Nature Conservancy and Northern Prairies Land Trust. The implementation of Flagship Initiatives including that in the SE Prairies Biologically Unique Land�scape follows from the Nebraska Legacy Plan which implements a proactive approach to conserving non-game wildlife and biological diversity in an Adaptive Management framework. The implementation of adaptive manage�ment, here defined as conducting management experiments that place competing hypotheses at risk and reduce identified sources of uncertainty while managing trust landscapes, is simplified because the SE Prairie Flagship is a partnership between managers, practitioners and academicians who share the common goal of improving prairie management. The overall goal is to manage prairies (via size of parcels enrolled in conservation measures, spatial aspects of location of particular parcels and groups of parcels) in the SE Flagship Biologically Unique Landscape in the most cost effective and efficient manner while maintaining critical plant-insect relation�ships (parasitoids, pollinators) indicative of system function. We are uniquely situated to initiate this program because we have flagship funding in place, the research steering committee represents the important stakeholders, and the Legacy Plan suggests an adaptive management approach. This is the opportunity to demonstrate one such approach. Objectives: The research and evaluation focus group is working toward two major objectives, both aimed at conservation of at-risk species and biological diversity. 1. Evaluate private-lands habitat work that has been occurring for a number of years in order to improve the location, conservation goals, and methods of those projects. 2. Evaluate the current and potential viability of ecological systems within the priority landscapes, especially related to degree of habitat fragmentation in those landscapes. This second objective is designed to inform the first. By understanding the population viability for various taxa and how that status differs between more and less fragmented areas�as well as other variables such as plant diversity, we will able to more wisely choose both the location and strategies management and conservation projects. Tasks. In 2008, pilot data were collected on plant and insect communities at 13 sites in the Southeast (SE) Prairie Biologically Unique Landscape, one of the four landscapes covered by the Flagship Initiative. 1. We are expanding our geographic range outside of the 2008 study area in order to include more isolated prairie sites and increase the range of variability. 2. A graduate student from the University of Nebraska-Omaha will investigate pollinator populations and the relationships between pollinators and landscape fragmentation. 3. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) graduate project will investigate insect communities, including overall insect community composition, richness and abundance of predator and parasitoid insects between sites. Measures of specific plant/insect host relationships (e.g., specialized seed herbivores and their host plants) will focus on the relationship to floristic quality and/or landscape fragmentation, with an eye towards identifying thresholds. 4. Multiple models will be tested following data collection in 2009 that will investigate the relationship between management activities and the context of specific sites, such as spatial context, size, connectivity, plant diversity, plant composition, floristic quality, etc. Dollars requested will leverage Southeast Nebraska Prairies Biologically Unique Landscape Management, in an adaptive framework, by: 1. Providing partial support to a UNL graduate student (the rest from Flagship funding) 2. Jump-starting adaptive management of Nebraska Legacy landscapes. (This latter goal will include a � day workshop with Nature Conservancy and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission land managers.)