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Monday, February 6 • 2:40pm - 3:00pm
Technical Session. Selection and Demographic Consequences of Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands for Lesser Prairie-Chickens

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AUTHORS: Daniel S. Sullins, John Kraft - Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Kansas State University; David A. Haukos, U.S. Geological Survey, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Kansas State University; Brett K. Sandercock, Division of Biology, Kansas State University

ABSTRACT: Prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus spp.) populations have been confined to areas where soils have been too poor, terrain too rough, or climate too arid for farming. The protection of large contiguous grasslands needed by prairie grouse has largely been a result of the unarable nature of the remaining grasslands. On the marginal farming lands of western Kansas and eastern Colorado, a new alternative has become apparent over the last 30 years. In this region, the conversion of cropland to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grassland appears beneficial for lesser prairie-chickens. However, CRP may only provide habitat for certain life stages (e.g., nesting and winter) and selection of CRP as habitat may vary between wet and dry years. We captured and fitted 124 female lesser prairie-chickens with VHF and GPS transmitters during the spring lekking seasons of 2013, 2014, and 2015 to monitor vital rates and selection for CRP in northwest Kansas landscapes. Overall, population growth rate estimates for birds using CRP compared to those that used only used native working grasslands overlapped at 95% confidence intervals (95%CI; CRP λ= 0.588 - 0.938, NonCRP λ = 0.452 - 0.782). The greatest benefit of CRP became apparent when examining nest densities. Nests were twice as dense in CRP grasslands as in native working grasslands, corresponding to greater reproductive output in landscapes having CRP grasslands. However, CRP did not provide brood habitat as 85% of females with broods surviving to 7 days moved their young to other cover types. Within northwest Kansas, the planting of tall- and mixed-grass native species as CRP grasslands can increase the amount of nesting habitat in a region where nesting habitat may have previously been limiting and provide refugia to sustain populations through periods of extreme drought that can drive lesser prairie-chicken population demography.

Monday February 6, 2017 2:40pm - 3:00pm CST
Grand Ballroom B

Attendees (3)