Historically, wetland and grassland ecosystems throughout the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of North America were shaped by fire, grazing, and alternating drought and deluge conditions. These historic disturbance patterns of the PPR have been altered by human modifications to the landscape. In recent years, managers have attempted to implement practices that simulate historic disturbance patterns in order to improve the diversity of structure and function in impacted ecosystems. This study evaluated the characteristics of restored and native wetland/grassland plant communities located within two National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) in the PPR of North Dakota. An extensive analysis of plant community composition following an environmental gradient was conducted in order to relate the composition and quality of wetland communities to the condition of adjacent upland grasslands and to compare the composition and quality of native and restored sites. Plant communities were evaluated using quadrat and transect methods and a Floristic Quality Index (FQI). Statistical analyses employed Nonmetric Multidimensional Scaling ordination and Multi-Response Permutation Procedure. We found wide variability in the composition and quality of the plant communities evaluated. Native plant communities were generally of higher quality than restored communities; also, plant communities located at Lostwood NWR generally contained more native components than those located at Tewaukon NWR. The results of this study show that restoration efforts, when properly managed, have the potential to improve the composition and quality of wetland and grassland plant communities. It is likely that the quality of the restored plant communities evaluated in this study will continue to improve with time and sustained management.
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