Managing Red Cedar Invasions of Nebraska Grasslands -Part II

Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) invasion is a major threat to grassland resources in Nebraska.


In this project we are working with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to answer four primary questions to better address cedar invasion.
1. What are the consequences of cedar invasion?
2. Where can cedar invasion occur in Nebraska?
3. How is current cedar management performing?
4. How can cedar management be improved?

Current Status

To date we have  (a) synthesized the consequences of invasion, (b) determined where in the Nebraska Sandhills is vulnerable to invasion, (c) assessed statewide management performance, and (d) quantified how cedar recovers following local eradication with prescribed fire. Cedar invasion is associated with many surprising and unexpected consequences including a loss of grassland biodiversity, increased wildfire risk, decreased freshwater supply and quality, loss of school funding, decreased forage and livestock production, endangerment of rural livelihoods, increased spring allergens, increased risk of species extinctions, and a risk of apple trees becoming infected with cedar-apple rust. The range of where these potential consequences can be realized in the Sandhills extends well beyond what is widely expected. Results from the Sandhills show that cedar invasion is occurring throughout the Sandhills—in areas west of the 100th meridian previously expected to be too dry for invasion to occur—and planted cedar windbreaks are contributing to this invasion. In our Nebraska-wide assessment of cedar management, we found that management is under performing relative to targets of stabilizing and/or reversing trends of increasing tree cover in grasslands. However, trends of increasing tree cover in the Loess Canyons have recently been stabilized as a result of partnerships between prescribed burn associations and natural resource professionals. Additionally, our research in the Loess Canyons shows that following prescribed burning cedar can recover quickly; sprouting seedlings within 1-2 years of initial restoration and forming dense thickets within 16 years. Future research will engage a diversity of Nebraska stakeholders to envision how future management can be improved.

Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) in Loess Canyon. Photo: Erin McCready
Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) in Loess Canyon. Photo: Erin McCready
Principal Investigator(s)
-Dirac Twidwell

Graduate Student(s)
-Dillon Fogarty, Ph.D.

Project Duration
January 2016 - May 2021

-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Project Location
Statewide Nebraska