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Evaluating threats and management practices for the conservation of hairy prairie-clover (Dalea villosa Nutt. (Spreng) var. villosa), a rare plant species in Saskatchewan



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Hairy prairie-clover (Dalea villosa Nutt. (Spreng) var. villosa), a rare plant species, grows in the Canadian Prairies. Populations of Dalea in Canada are threatened by the loss of sand dune habitat because of changes in land use and altered ecological processes such as grazing and fire. Local populations of Dalea are further threatened by one or more specific threats, including herbivory from native and domestic ungulates and invasion of habitats by exotic plants. The overall objective of this thesis was to gain more knowledge about Dalea and to determine the impact of threats and management practices to the Saskatchewan populations and their habitats. Observational studies were conducted at each of two sites in Saskatchewan supporting Dalea. First, at the Dundurn Sandhills site, structural equation modeling was used to examine landscape, ecological, and management factors associated with high rates of herbivory on Dalea and with reductions in the long-term survival and productivity of Dalea. The conditions which deer (Odocoileus hemionus and Odocoileus virginianus) or cattle (Bos taurus) were responsible for the most intense rates of herbivory to Dalea plants and patches were determined. Generally, deer appeared responsible for the most herbivory, whereas cattle grazing on Dalea increased with stocking densities. At the same time, new hypotheses about ecological processes affecting Dalea productivity in the Dundurn Sandhills were explored. In particular, it appeared that deer may be responding to cattle grazing in Dalea habitat by avoiding those areas, and that mid-season germination and recruitment of many Dalea plants may occur following precipitation events. Second, at the Mortlach site, the costs and benefits of using grazing management to control leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L. var. esula) were assessed, especially in consideration of the potential negative effects of intense herbivory on Dalea productivity. Aspects of the grazing regime including stocking density and the livestock species influenced herbivory on Dalea and its reproductive output, but there were no apparent links between the abundance of leafy spurge abundance and the reproductive output of Dalea. The findings of these two studies are relevant for the conservation and management of Dalea in Saskatchewan.



Dalea villosa, hairy prairie-clover, SEM, herbivory, grazing, leafy spurge, Euphorbia esula, multi-model inference



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Plant Sciences


Plant Science


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