Date of this Version
Native grassland is one of the most heavily degraded of all North American ecosystems, and restoration of altered grasslands is a tool used to mitigate some of the biological ramifications of past land use practices. Providing habitat for grassland-dependent bird species often is one of the many goals of restoration. We evaluated the efficacy of meadow restoration for breeding birds in the Nebraska Platte River Valley by comparing the bird community and vegetation structure on 25 natural (original sod) and 25 restored meadows. We conducted principal components analyses on the vegetation structure and on the bird community, and modeled the densities of common bird species in relation to vegetation features. Vegetation structure of natural and restored meadows overlapped broadly, although some metrics differed between the 2 types of meadows. With the exception of Dickcissel (Spiza americana), natural meadows supported higher densities of upland bird species, whereas restored meadows supported generalist species associated with moister conditions and brushier vegetation. Models of bird density reflected some of the differences in bird communities and vegetation structure between the 2 types of meadows: species with higher densities on natural meadows were associated with less bare ground, less woody vegetation, and less litter, whereas species that were more common on restored meadows were associated with more bare ground, more woody vegetation, more litter, less grass, and greater vegetation height-density. Periodic burning and grazing may help restore planted meadows in the Platte River Valley while maintaining species diversity.