U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 240 (2017) 224–232


U.S. Government Work


Recent focus on climate change and global energy production has increased interest in developing biofuels including perennial native grasses (e.g. switchgrass [Panicum virgatum]) as viable energy commodities while simultaneously maintaining ecosystem function and biodiversity. However, there is limited research examining the effects of biofuel-focused grasslands on grassland bird reproductive success and conservation. In 2011–2013 we studied the effects of vegetation composition and harvest regimens of switchgrass monocultures and native warm-season grass (NWSG) mixtures on nest success, nest density, and productivity for dickcissels (Spiza americana) in Clay Co. MS, USA. There was no effect of vegetation metrics, harvest frequency, or biofuel treatment on nest survival. However, both vegetation composition and harvest frequencies influenced nest density and productivity. Native warm season grasses contained 54–64 times more nests relative to switchgrass treatments, and nest density and productivity were 10% greater in single harvest plots. Our results suggest semi-natural grasslands can balance biofuel production, ecosystem functionality, and conservation so that biofuels offer an opportunity for wildlife conservation rather than a continued threat to grassland birds.

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