Within the Roan Mountain massif in the southern Appalachian Mountains, grassy balds are important, yet threatened ecosystems dominated by native graminoids with many endemic and endangered species. Restoration efforts have been conducted for 30 years by several agencies. In 1987–1988 a vegetation analysis was conducted on these balds to characterize plant communities before intensive management began. In summer 2020, we resurveyed the vegetation using similar methodologies on Round, Jane, and part of Grassy Ridge Balds to assess the impact of management activities. Percent coverage of vegetation type was recorded in 226 one m2 plots along 11 transects. Management history was compiled for individual plots. Percent cover data were subjected to cluster analysis, principal components analysis (PCA), non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMS), and regression. Cluster analysis of sampled plots revealed 12 plant community groups. PCA revealed plots separating along a gradient of blackberry and grass cover, as well as blackberry, grass, and fern cover. Results from NMS showed less separation of plots compared to PCA with most plots clustering in the center, except those with high bare ground coverage. A significant positive relationship was seen between graminoid cover and management frequency and a negative relationship with the amount of time since management activity. All of the relationships had low explanatory power suggesting that other factors might influence the plant populations. Our research shows there is a positive association with graminoid cover and increased management frequency, but more research involving other biotic and abiotic factors and management history should be explored.
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Vol. 87 • No. 1