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Landscape context and plant community composition in grazed agricultural systems of the Northeastern United States

Goslee, Sarah C., Sanderson, Matt A.
Landscape ecology 2010 v.25 no.7 pp. 1029
agriculture, climatic zones, grazing, land use, soil, species diversity, topography, agricultural land, landscapes, plant communities, community structure, grasslands, land management, pastures, soil chemical properties, forests, Northeastern United States
Temperate humid grazing lands are an important component of the landscape of the northeastern United States, as well as of the economy of this region. Unlike their European counterparts, little is known about the basic ecology of managed grasslands in this region. During an 8-year survey of 28 farms across the northeastern United States, we sampled the vegetation on 95 grazed plots, identifying 310 plant species, and collected data on topography, climate and soils. Landscape structure data were obtained from the National Land Cover Data (NLCD) 2001 for six radii (250-2,000 m) surrounding each site. The 500-m radius was most strongly related to plant community composition. Planned species composition was related only to site factors, while associated species were influenced by both site factors and landscape pattern. Species richness was unrelated to landscape structure for either group. Differing management effects on planned and associated species may explain the variation in their responses. Managed grasslands are a critical part of the interconnected landscape of the northeastern United States, and both affect and are affected by their surroundings.