Habitats of North Carolina
Habitat Group:
Habitat Type:
Members of Early Succesional and Semi-Natural Habitats:
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Early Succesional and Semi-Natural Habitats
General Successional and Semi-Natural Grasslands
General Description This habitat includes species associated with the grass stage of secondary succession, as it occurs widely over the state. It also includes pastures, hayfields, and other managed grasslands that are composed of native species of grasses and associated forbs, along with their symbiotic herbivores and other native members of the grassland food web.

The grasslands included here are usually successional and hence transitory in our area. Under natural conditions, species found in these habitats are fugitive, colonizing species. Following Eurpean settlement, however, grasslands became managed for livestock production and became more persistent. Management practices originally involved periodic burning (as was done previously by Native Americans) or mowing, both of which were conducive to maintaining populations of native species. These species, however, are declining under current agricultural practices that are replacing native grasses with more intensively managed exotic species (see discussion of Threats and Trends below).

This particular habitat includes species that are found widely across the state, occurring extensively in at least two of the state's physiographic provinces. These successional and/or semi-natural grasslands intersect other, more naturally persistent grasslands, particularly those associated with glades, savannas, and beach dunes. Each of those habitats, however, have additional habitat factors, including those that keep the habitats open rather than closing in to forest. Their characteristic species are also, consequently, different and they are treated in separate habitat groups.

Abiotic Factors Geographic Regions: Lower Coastal Plain to High Mountains. USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-8. Landform: ridges, slopes, bottomlands, and wet flats. Slope Aspect: occurs on all slopes aspects as well as on ridges and flats. Soil Moisture: Dry to wet. Soil texture: sandy to loamy to alluvial. Soil pH: circumneutral to acidic. Soil Nutrient Content: rich to poor. Microclimate: Warm to cool; humid to dry. Hydrological Features: surface waters are common to scarce. Flood Frequency: varies from occasionally to never flooded. Flood Duration: nonexistent to transitory. Fire Frequency: common to rare. Drought Frequency: frequent to rare. Insolation: full sun

Biotic Structure Vegetation Type: open grasslands, including those associated with natural succession and those consisting of native grasses that are maintained by mowing or fire; examples that include "improved" pasture grasses or that are maintained by application of herbicides or pesticides

Co-evolved Species Groups Phagic and Competitory Symbioses:
Andropogon and Schizachyrium species // Atrytonopsis hianna-Hesperia metea-Nastra lherminier
Digitaria ciliaris // Cosmopterix magophila
Tridens flavus // Heliocheilus lupatus-Polites origenes

Determining Species
Spiza americanaDickcisselG5S2S20.03699
Ammodramus savannarumGrasshopper SparrowG5S3S30.00407
Eremophila alpestrisHorned LarkG5S4S40.00041
Sturnella magnaEastern MeadowlarkG5S4S40.00041
Anatrytone loganDelaware Skipper
Cercyonis pegalaCommon Wood-nymph
Hesperia meteaCobweb SkipperG4S2S20.03699
Hesperia leonardusLeonard's SkipperG4S2S3S2S30.01230
Atrytonopsis hiannaDusted SkipperG4G5S4S40.00041
Polites themistoclesTawny-edged SkipperG5S4S40.00041
Limochores origenesG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Nastra lherminierSwarthy SkipperG5S5S50.00000
Polites origenesCrossline SkipperG4G5S5S50.00000
Andropogon gerardiBig BluestemG5S4S40.00041
Andropogon ternariusSplitbeard Bluestem, Silver BluestemG5S5S50.00000
Andropogon virginicusBroom-sedgeG5S5S50.00000
Aristida dichotomaShinners Three-awned GrassG5S5S50.00000
Digitaria ciliarisSouthern CrabgrassG5S5S50.00000
Schizachyrium scopariumLittle BluestemG5S5S50.00000
Sorghastrum nutansYellow Indian-grassG5S5S50.00000
Tridens flavusTall Purple-top FluffgrassG5S5S50.00000
Scaphytopius cinereusS2S40.00407
Memnonia flavidaS4S50.00010
Stirellus bicolorS50.00000
Flexamia clayiSNR
Flexamia reflexaSNR
Flexamia sandersiSNR
Reithrodontomys humulisEastern Harvest MouseG5S4S40.00041
Microtus pennsylvanicusMeadow VoleG5S5 S4S4S50.00010
Sigmodon hispidusHispid Cotton RatG5S5S50.00000
Fissicrambus mutabilisChangeable Grass-veneer, Striped Sod webworm
Haimbachia squamulellaa crambid moth
Lipocosmodes fuliginosalisSooty Lipocosmodes Moth
Microcrambus biguttellusGold-stripe Grass-veneer
Stereomita andropogonisGNRSUS1S20.11107
Cosmopterix magophilaGNRSHS2S30.01230
Gonioterma mistrellaGNRSUS2S40.00407
Fissicrambus hemiochrellusGNRSUS3S40.00132
Heliocheilus lupatusSpotted Straw MothGNRS3S4S3S40.00132
Mocis latipesSmall MocisG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Nola cereellaSorghum Webworm MothG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Caenurgina erechteaForage Looper MothG5S5S50.00000
Crambus agitatellusDouble-banded Grass-veneer MothS50.00000
Mocis texanaTexas MocisG5S5S50.00000
Allonemobius walkeriWalker's Ground CricketGNRSUS2S40.00407
Allonemobius griseus funeralisDusky Ground CricketG5S3S5S3S50.00041
Chortophaga viridifasciataGreen-striped grasshopperG5S5S50.00000
Conocephalus strictusStraight-lanced Meadow KatydidGNRS5S50.00000
Dichromorpha viridisShort-winged Green Grasshopper G5S5S50.00000
Gryllus rubensSoutheastern Field CricketG5S5S50.00000
Orchelimum erythrocephalumRed-headed Meadow KatydidS50.00000
Nr = Number of Ranked Species = 42
Ner = Number of Extant, Ranked Species = 42
Nv = Number of Historic and Extirpated Species = 0
Nar = Number of Species at Risk of Extirpation (State rank > S5) = 23
Nss = Number of Secure Species (State Rank = S5) = 19
Pss = Proportion of Secure Species (Nss/Ner) = 0.45238
ENE = Expected Number of Extirpations (Sum of PE) = 0.23194
Average PE (ENE/Ner) = 0.00552
Habitat Risk Index = (Nar+Nv) x Average PE = 23 x 0.00552 = 0.12696

Estimated Risk to the Determining Species One species in this habitat is ranked as S1S2 and two are ranked as S2. The Average PE is equivalent to a State Rank of S3.
Estimated Risk to the Co-evolved Species Groups
Estimated Security of the Habitat Fifteen species in this habitat are considered secure in North Carolina. The Proportion of Secure Species is moderately high at 42%. Successional grasslands are still fairly well distributed across the state, but the management of pastures and hayfields is changing, with fewer examples now supporting the native species that once thrived in them.

Index of Habitat Imperilment The combination of a moderately high Average PE with a relatively large number of species produces a relatively high value of ENE. That value is only moderately reduced by the PSS value. The resulting value for HRI is consequently moderately high, especially for a semi-natural habitat type.

Identified Risks Changes in management of pastures and hayfields that replace native warm-season grasses with cultivated species that require heavy use of agricultural chemicals have been implicated in the decline of grassland birds in North Carolina (see Sharpe, 2010), as has the more intensive use of mechanized farm equipment. Although not often mentioned, the great reduction in grasshoppers and other grassland insects is likely also taking a toll on the vertebrates associated with our natural (or semi-natural) grasslands. That the insects themselves are key components of these habitats is generally completely overlooked.

Observed Trends
Distribution Map
Major Conservation Reserves
Priority Areas for Surveys and Conservation Protection
Stewardship and Management Recommendations
References Askins, R.A., Chávez-Ramírez, F., Dale, B.C., Haas, C.A., Herkert, J.R., Knopf, F.L. and Vickery, P.D., 2007. Conservation of grassland birds in North America: understanding ecological processes in different regions. Accessible online at: https://digitalcommons.conncoll.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=biofacpub

Rosenberg, K.V., A.M. Dokter, P.J. Blancher, J.R. Sauer, A.C. Smith, P.A. Smith, J.C. Stanton, A. Panjabi, L. Helft, M. Parr, P.P. Marra. 2019. Decline of the North American avifauna. Science. Published Online19 Sep 2019. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw1313

Sharpe, T., 2010. Grassland Management. In: Tarheel wildlife-A guide for managing wildlife on private lands in North Carolilna. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Raleigh, North Carolina. Available online at: https://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Hunting/Documents/Tarheel_Wildlife.pdf
Updated on 2022-08-03 17:03:31