ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF GRASSLANDS IN GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK, SASKATCHEWAN
Bookbinder, Susan E J
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The purpose of this study was to determine the current ecological status of grasslands in Grasslands National Park. Permanent transects were established on 24 sites in the West block of the park. Abundance data were collected along the transects using the point transect method and used to determine the basal cover of each transect. Yield and disappearance measurements were collected at 18 sites. In total, 70 species of plant were observed at the grassland sites studied. The Upland Grassland sites in Grasslands National Park are best described as Stipa Bouteloua-Koeleria grasslands, with abundant Selaginella densa. While the Slope Grassland sites examined in Grasslands National Park can be described as Agropyron Bouteloua-Stipa grasslands; both the Frenchman River Valley Grassland sites and the Tributary Valley Grassland sites are described as Agropyron-Poa grasslands. The range condition of the grasslands in Grasslands National Park was found to be extremely variable. Invader species, which show deterioration of the range, were found on most sites and in all pastures. These results indicate a grassland environment which has been disturbed by some outside influence. However, it is not known whether these changes in plant composition were caused by natural or man made disturbances. Nonetheless, it is known that livestock have been grazing in the area for the past century. In conclusion, the results of this research program suggest that the grasslands within Grasslands National Park have been influenced by a wide variety of limiting factors and disturbances of varying intensity. The outcome of these competing influences is a grassland that is not uniform in character but rather one that is composed of a mosaic of communities. Given that the region still experiences periodic disturbances and contains a diverse landscape, it seems likely that these grasslands will continue to develop in a patch-like manner.