Eastern redcedar is increasing in Nebraska’s Biologically Unique Landscapes (BULs). Eastern redcedar is invading Nebraska’s BULs, threatening common and at-risk grassland wildlife (Fig 5; Fogarty dissertation research). For most rangeland BULs, Eastern redcedar invasion has reached stages that are expensive to manage mechanically, and invasion continues to outpace control. Preventing the establishment of Eastern redcedar, and managing invasion during the early stages (i.e., when trees are not detectable with satellite imagery) is a recommended strategy for managing tree invasions across the world’s grassland regions (Beale et al. 2013).
Eastern redcedar invasion limits the influence of other habitat management strategies for grassland wildlife. Eastern redcedar invasion eliminates habitat for grassland-dependent wildlife and will limit the efficacy of numerous grassland-based conservation programs. Habitat management strategies such as conservation grazing, establishment of food plots, and wildflower planting will have limited, if any, impact on grassland wildlife abundance if Eastern redcedar invasion is not controlled.
Figure 5. Percent tree cover change from 2000 - 2017 in Nebraska’s rangeland Biologically Unique Landscapes (Fogarty dissertation research).
Only one group in the Great Plains has demonstrated the capacity to stabilize a region following the onset of exponential growth of Eastern redcedar (Fig. 4; Fogarty dissertation research).
This is the result of unique partnership in the Loess Canyons BUL where landowners, scientists, and agencies (Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Pheasants Forever, Natural Resource Conservation Service) have leveraged resources in new ways to scale-up Eastern redcedar control, and this region provides the first scientific evidence for sustainable rangeland management in areas with higher amounts of juniper cover in the Great Plains. Other regions in Nebraska that have received significant conservation investments for Eastern redcedar control continue to increase (Fig. 4).
The scientific impacts of Eastern redcedar invasion have been recently investigated for two sectors of Nebraska’s economy. The full economic impacts of Eastern redcedar invasion correspond to a diverse suite of potential social and environmental sectors and has yet to be explored in scientific research.
Figure 4. New rangeland inventory shows the relative performance of Eastern redcedar conservation expenditures in four Nebraska BULS that have received significant cost-share investments.
Today, Great Plains grasslands are experiencing widespread invasion of Eastern redcedar as a result of the following practices:
Eastern redcedar was historically rare in Nebraska, occurring only where fire could not occur (Miller 1902; Kellogg 1905; Harper 1912; Arend 1950, Blewett 1986; Briggs et al. 2002). This non-resprouting tree is one of the most fire-sensitive plants in the Great Plains (Twidwell et al. 2013b). Consequently, Eastern redcedar was kept in low abundances by frequent human-ignited prairie fires and wildfires and thrived primarily in places where individual trees could escape fire damage (Briggs et al. 2002; Twidwell et al. 2013b).
The removal of this historical controlling process, coupled with ubiquitous planting and distribution of Eastern redcedar, set the stage for widespread invasion and proliferation in grassland-dominated states (e.g. Nebraska; Fig. 1).