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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Exotic grasslands on reclaimed midwestern coal mines: An ornithological perspective
Year: 2004
Author(s): Scott, P. E., Lima, S. L.
Source Title: Weed Technology
Source Type: Journal
pages: 1518-1521
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: The largest grasslands in Indiana and Illinois are on reclaimed surface coal mines, which are numerous in the Illinois Coal Basin. The reclamation goal of establishing a vegetation cover with inexpensive, hardy exotic grass species (e.g., tall fescue, smooth brome) inadvertently created persistent, large grassland bird refuges. We review research documenting the importance of these sites for native prairie birds. On mines, grassland specialist birds (restricted to grassland throughout their range) prefer sites dominated by exotic grasses to those rich in forbs, whereas nonspecialist bird species show no significant preference. Midwestern mine grasslands potentially could be converted into landscapes that include native warm-season grasses and forbs adapted to the relatively dry, poor soil conditions, in addition to the present successful exotic grass stands. A key question is whether native mixtures will resist conversion to forb-rich or woody growth over the long term, as the exotic grasses have done.