Woody plant expansion is well-known to alter plant community composition, often including a decrease in plant biodiversity, such as species richness. This dataset was used to determine if plant communities are able to “bounce back” after repeated woody plant removal, returning to plant community more similar to tallgrass prairie without woody plant encroachment. Woody plant encroachment can affect plant communities in two key ways: increasing competition for light and limiting grassland propagules (if woody encroachment is widespread). Therefore, we also included a treatment in the riparian removal where seeds of native prairie plants were added to reduce propagule limitation. This data suggests that despite repeated tree removal, the plant community has not returned to a grassland state. Instead, shrubs and herbaceous woodland plants are dominant. Adding grassland propagules had no discernable impact.
Measurements were taken in three “treatments”: the non-woody riparian zone, the woody riparian zone without additional seeds, and the woody riparian zone with additional seeds. In each treatment, there were four plots, each of which was 10 m parallel along and 3 m perpendicular to the stream channel. Each plot had four plant composition transects along which we sampled four one m2 subplots along each transect. Vegetative cover of vascular plant species was determined using a modified Daubenmire scale, with measurements taken in the spring and autumn in 2010, 2011, and 2020. When a species was present at both times, the maximum annual cover was used.