Plant succession in a Southern High Plains semi-arid grassland over a 17-year period



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Plant succession was investigated in a Southern High Plains (Llano Estacado) semi-arid grassland over a 17-year period. The area occurs in a transitional state between shortgrass plains and southern mixed prairie. We compared two years of vegetation data using 60 permanent transects sampled in 1995 and 2012, to determine changes over time and effects of land management treatments. Multivariate stepwise discriminant analyses were used on nine community and five treatment groups. The successional changes and treatment effects were interpreted by major species composition. Retrogression and succession occurred over time and treatment. The worst drought on record occurred in 2011, and it was consecutively dry in 2012. Precipitation is an important driver for a divergence between two late-seral communities, one characterized by the shortgrass plains and the other southern mixed prairie. The results for the nine community groups support classical secondary succession for the southern Great Plains. The results for the five treatment groups suggest that applying mechanical mesquite management and fire are beneficial to landscape recovery.



Southern High Plains, Llano Estacado, semi-arid grassland, Secondary succession, Discriminant analysis, Brush management, Prescribed fire, Restoration