Managing Red Cedar Invasion of Nebraska Grasslands- Part I

Eastern redcedar is the most rapidly expanding woody plant species in the Great Plains and is now recognized as the number one threat to Nebraska’s rangelands by the Nebraska Conservation Round Table. The impacts of redcedar invasion in grasslands are wide-ranging, including reducing grassland bird diversity and abundance, decreasing livestock production by 75%, reducing small mammal and insect diversity, and costing Nebraska Public Schools over $2,440,000 from 2006-2016.


The objective of this grant is to assess the vulnerability of Nebraska’s grasslands to redcedar invasion, and develop predictive tools that enhance the potential to implement landscape interventions that, 1) prevent the spread of redcedar trees or 2) restore degraded wildlife habitat following transformation to a redcedar-dominated state.

Current Status

Four products have been developed since January 2017. First, field data has been collected from the Loess Canyons Biologically Unique Landscape (BUL) that provides evidence that extreme fire increases grassland productivity underneath closed-canopy juniper woodlands and may serve as a grassland restoration tool.

Second, thermal imaging data has been collected from the same site providing evidence that redcedar increases wildfire risk in grasslands. This information consists of flame length measurements at a meter resolution along a gradient of grassland to closed-canopy juniper woodland. We aim to take this information and directly compare it to the U.S. Forest Service’s wildfire suppression guidelines.

Third, an exhaustive review of redcedar has been conducted. This review will help form the foundation for what we currently know about redcedar and which components of its lifespan, reproduction, impacts on grasslands, rate of invasion into grasslands…etc. remain unexplored in the scientific literature.

Lastly, we finalized a synthesis of the impacts of redcedar on grasslands. This information will be used to create an Ecoliteracy webpage designed to help inform landowners, agency members, and members of the university of the wide-ranging impacts and tradeoffs associated with the transformation of grasslands to closed-canopy juniper woodland.

Principal Investigator(s)
-Dirac Twidwell, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
-Craig R. Allen, NE CFWRU
Graduate Student(s)
-Christine Bielski, Ph.D.
Project Duration
January 2016-December 2017
-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Location
Statewide Nebraska