Prairies play an integral ecological role, protecting biodiversity and providing habitat for fauna. The number of prairie acres has significantly declined in Minnesota, making the existing prairies that much more valuable. The Oak Leaf Lake Unit of the Swan Lake Wildlife Management Area in Nicollet County, Minnesota (latitude 44.311050, longitude -94.015577) was purchased by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 1994 and is being managed as tallgrass prairie. Floristic surveys were performed during the 2011 and 2012 growing seasons to gather baseline data. These data were used to assess the quality of the site through calculation of various indices that allowed comparison of its flora to floras of other prairies in the area. Two sampling methods, a walk-through method and a random-sampling-in-quadrats method, were employed to compare the effectiveness of data compilation (i.e. the number of plant species located and identified) for each method. Additional data collected via the random-sampling-in-quadrats method included percent cover, litter depth, frequency, and species diversity. In total, 112 plant species in 88 genera and 33 families were found over both growing seasons with nearly half found exclusively using the walk-through method in 2011 and none found exclusively using the random-sampling-in-quadrats method in 2012. The percentage of native, nonnative, and unknown species located in each sampling method were similar. No rare or endangered species were located. Differences in the sampling methods make determining the most effective and efficient method difficult. The most effective method is determined predominantly by the goals and restrictions of each distinct study. For the purposes of this particular study, the walk-through method produced a more complete compilation of plant species data than the random-sampling-in-quadrats method. The data gathered through this study provides important information on the current ecological quality of the Oak Leaf Lake Unit while providing a baseline for future research at the site.


Alison Mahoney

Committee Member

Christopher Ruhland

Committee Member

Forrest Wilkerson

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


Science, Engineering and Technology

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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