The science is in! A new study by researchers from Kansas State University and US Geological Survey resoundingly confirms that redcedar encroachment on the Southern Great Plains greatly impacts lesser prairie-chickens.
Using GPS transmitters, researchers tracked the movements of 58 female lesser prairie-chickens for two years on 35,000 acres of private land in south-central Kansas. They measured the response of the prairie-chickens to trees 3 feet or taller, 80% of which were eastern redcedars. Three key findings emerged:
- Female lesser prairie-chickens did not nest in grasslands with more than 1 tree per acre.
- They avoided trees by about 1000 feet on average when selecting habitat and nest sites.
- They stopped using grasslands altogether when tree density reached 3 trees/acre.
LEPCs in the study area were forty times more likely to use habitats with tree densities of 0 trees/acre than habitats with 2 trees/acre. The findings make it clear that removing redcedar, even when present at very low densities, is critical to LEPC conservation.
The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI) uses science to develop management practices that will most efficiently and effectively improve habitat for lesser prairie-chickens, delivering the greatest return on investment.
In response to this latest study, LPCI has released its first Science to Solutions paper, “Redcedar Removal Restores LEPC Habitat,” identifying conservation practices aligned with these scientific findings. The recommendations center on three key strategies:
- Focus on stands with low-density redcedar encroachment, giving priority to sites within LEPC focal areas and connectivity zones, and sites already occupied by LEPC or adjacent to occupied sites.
- Use mechanical cutting or prescribed fire to remove all redcedar trees on treated acres.
- Use prescribed fire to maintain or restore open grasslands. Regular use of prescribed fire is a cost-effective way to prevent woody encroachment on grasslands.
Read the full Science to Solutions paper for details!