Discovery Guides Areas


The Tallgrass Prairie: An Endangered Landscape
(Released November 2011)

  by Pam Graham  


Key Citations




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  1. Field Test of Digital Photography Biomass Estimation Technique in Tallgrass Prairie

    Sherry A. Leis and Lloyd W. Morrison.

    Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 64, No. 1, Jan 2011, pp. 99-103.

    Fuel loading information is important for prescribed fire planning, evaluating wildfire risk, and understanding fire effects in grassland. Yet fuel loads in grasslands often go unmeasured because of the time required to clip plots and process samples, as well as limited access or proximity to a drying oven. We tested the digital photography biomass estimation technique for measuring fuel load in grasslands in two national parks in the eastern Great Plains. The method consists of using percentage image obstruction, as determined by digital photography, to estimate vegetation biomass based on a linear transformation (i.e., regressing dry clipped weights against percent digital obstruction). We used the technique with some modification and measured digital obstruction at two sites at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Missouri (WICR), and three sites at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Kansas (TAPR). The method did not result in strong correlations at either of the two sites at WICR (Site 1: r2 = 0.02; Site 2: r2 = 0.32), but performed relatively well at TAPR (Site 1 [[ 0.05). In general, the denser the vegetation, the weaker the relationship between the vegetation biomass of clip plots and the percentage image obstruction of digital images. The digital photography technique may not be useful for estimating fuel loads in grasslands with relatively high biomass (> 80 g .. 0.1 m -2) or digital image obstruction > 50%%. Large amounts of litter may also potentially reduce the accuracy of the technique.

  2. Nitrate leaching as a function of plant community richness and composition, and the scaling of soil nutrients, in a restored temperate grassland

    Marcus A. Bingham and Mario Biondini.

    Plant Ecology, Vol. 212, No. 3, Mar 2011 2011, pp. 413-422.

    Two, two-factor experiments manipulated species and functional form plant richness and the spatial scaling of either nitrogen (N) or phosphorous (P) in restored tallgrass prairie in North Dakota, USA. Nitrate (NO3-) leaching was measured in these plots and analyzed for its response to the treatment factors and measured plant community parameters. Nitrate extracted from anion exchange resin was regressed against the first principal component of species and functional form richness, the spatial scaling of N or P, the measured biomass of the functional forms used and the plot values for plant parameters based on weighted averages by species biomass. The treatments applied in the N and P experiments were 1, 2, 5, 10, or 20 plant species taxa, and the application of fertilizer in a random fractal pattern with either fine-scale or coarse-scale heterogeneity. Nitrate leaching decreased with plant diversity and increased by a factor of two going from fine-scale to coarse-scale N. It was also related to a number of plant functional parameters, and was positively correlated with the biomass of late successional C3 grasses (Koeleria cristata (Lam.) Beauv., Poa pratensis L., Stipa comata Trin. & Rupr., and Stipa viridula Trin.), which are known from previous studies to have negative mycorrhizal responsiveness and are characterized by high root lateral spread per unit of root biomass. Our results show that while plant diversity has a highly significant influence on plant community uptake of NO3-, this effect is mediated by the scaling of soil N and the functional traits of the species comprising the plant assemblage.

  3. A 12-year study on the scaling of vascular plant composition in an Oklahoma tallgrass prairie

    DJ McGlinn, PG Earls and MW Palmer.

    Ecology, Vol. 91, No. 6, Jun 2010, pp. 1872.

    We present data that were collected as part of a monitoring project on vascular plant composition at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County, Oklahoma, USA. The purpose of these data are to promote the study of multi-scale patterns of species composition for both theoretical and applied questions. Furthermore, these data will provide a reference point for tallgrass prairie restoration projects in the Flint Hills: Over the course of the 12-year period, we sampled 20 permanent plots annually. The permanent plots were selected semirandomly from a UTM grid using the criteria that they contain less than 20% of woody cover, standing water, or exposed rock. Plant species presence was recorded at five spatial scales: 0.01, 0.1, 1.0, 10, and 100 m2) in each of the four corners of a 100-m2 square quadrat. Plant species were assigned to a percent cover class at the 100-m2 grain. In addition to information on plant composition, we provide data on topography, soil variables, monthly total rainfall, monthly average temperature, and management records related to fire and grazing history. We hope this data set will stimulate further research into the scaling of biodiversity and insight into the functioning and conservation of tallgrass prairie plant communities.

  4. Development of soil microbial communities during tallgrass prairie restoration

    Kamlesh Jangid, Mark A. Williams, Alan J. Franzluebbers, John M. Blair, David C. Coleman and William B. Whitman.

    Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Vol. 42, No. 2, Feb 2010, pp. 302-312.

    Soil microbial communities were examined in a chronosequence of four different land-use treatments at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, Kansas. The time series comprised a conventionally tilled cropland (CTC) developed on former prairie soils, two restored grasslands that were initiated on former agricultural soils in 1998 (RG98) and 1978 (RG78), and an annually burned native tallgrass prairie (BNP), all on similar soil types. In addition, an unburned native tallgrass prairie (UNP) and another grassland restored in 2000 (RG00) on a different soil type were studied to examine the effect of long-term fire exclusion vs. annual burning in native prairie and the influence of soil type on soil microbial communities in restored grasslands. Both 16S rRNA gene clone libraries and phospholipid fatty acid analyses indicated that the structure and composition of bacterial communities in the CTC soil were significantly different from those in prairie soils. Within the time series, soil physicochemical characteristics changed monotonically. However, changes in the microbial communities were not monotonic, and a transitional bacterial community formed during restoration that differed from communities in either the highly disturbed cropland or the undisturbed original prairie. The microbial communities of RG98 and RG00 grasslands were also significantly different even though they were restored at approximately the same time and were managed similarly; a result attributable to the differences in soil type and associated soil chemistry such as pH and Ca. Burning and seasonal effects on soil microbial communities were small. Similarly, changing plot size from 300 m2 to 150 m2 in area caused small differences in the estimates of microbial community structure. In conclusion, microbial community structure and biochemical properties of soil from the tallgrass prairie were strongly impacted by cultivation, and the microbial community was not fully restored even after 30 years.

  5. Potential Terrestrial Arthropod Indicators for Tallgrass Prairie Restoration in Iowa

    JM Orlofske, WJ Ohnesorg and DM Debinski.

    Ecological Restoration (North America), Vol. 28, No. 3, Sep 2010, pp. 250.

    Prairie management and restoration have traditionally emphasized plant communities but could benefit from the development of ecological indicators that incorporate animal communities to provide tangible benchmarks of ecosystem function and process (Hodkinson and Jackson 2005). Arthropods are useful bioindicators in terrestrial and aquatic systems because, in addition to being diverse and abundant, they represent key components in food webs, nutrient cycles, plant reproduction, and soil formation (Hodkinson and Jackson 2005, Kremen et al. 1993).

  6. Restoring Tallgrass Prairie and Grassland Bird Populations in Tall Fescue Pastures With Winter Grazing

    Tracey N. {a} Johnson and Brett K. Sandercock.

    Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 63, No. 6, 2010, pp. 679-688.

    Restoration of grasslands dominated by tall fescue (Schedonorus phoenix (Scop.) Holub) to native tallgrass prairie usually requires burning, herbicides, or reseeding. We tested seasonal grazing by livestock in winter, combined with cessation of fertilization, as a restoration tool for modifying the competitive dynamics among herbaceous plants to restore tallgrass prairie communities in southeastern Kansas. In 2004-2005, we compared responses of grassland plants and birds across a chronosequence of pastures that were winter-grazed from 1 yr to 5 yr. We compared winter-grazed pastures to pastures grazed year-round and to local native prairie remnants as starting and endpoints for restoration, respectively. Abundance of native warm-season grasses increased from 2% to 3% mean relative frequency in pastures grazed year-round to 18% to 30% in winter-grazed pastures, and increased with duration of winter-grazing. Native warm-season grasses accounted for 1-6% of total live aboveground biomass in pastures grazed year-round, 1-34% in winter-grazed pastures, and 31-34% in native prairie remnants. Tall fescue abundance and biomass were similar among grazing treatments, with a trend for tall fescue to be less dominant in winter-grazed pastures. Tall fescue made up 9-40% of total aboveground biomass in year-round grazed pastures and 10-25% in winter-grazed pastures. Grassland birds showed variable responses to winter-grazing. Dickcissels (Spiza americana) and Henslow's sparrows (Ammodramus henslowii) were more abundant in winter-grazed pastures, whereas eastern meadowlarks (Sturnella magna) and grasshopper sparrows (A. sauannarum) had similar abundance in pastures grazed year-round and during winter. Winter-grazing of pastures dominated by tall fescue combined with suspension of nitrogen fertilization could be an effective restoration technique that allows use of prairie rangeland while improving habitat for sensitive grassland birds.

  7. Ant Diversity in Two Southern Minnesota Tallgrass Prairie Restoration Sites

    PM Kittelson, MP Priebe and PJ Graeve.

    Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science, Vol. 115, No. 1-4, Jan-Dec 2008, pp. 28-32.

    There is little basic information about ant species richness and abundance in tall grass prairie restorations despite the importance of ants to plant community structure and function. We compared ant abundance and richness, vascular plant cover and richness, and soil compaction at two southern Minnesota grassland restoration sites, a prairie reconstruction and a prairie remnant undergoing rehabilitation. We collected a total of 3,523 ants from 12 different species. Plant species richness ranged from 45 in the prairie reconstruction to 95 in the remnant prairie. We found five more species of ants and significantly higher mean ant species richness per plot in the more heterogeneous prairie remnant with higher plant diversity, especially forbs, than in the prairie reconstruction where plant species diversity was lower. Our study found 10 new ant species records in Le Sueur and Nicollet counties, Minnesota. Because of the paucity of information about ant species in the upper Midwest, it is difficult to fully compare our results to those of other restored or natural areas in the area. Our study provides an important baseline census for two different types of tallgrass prairie restorations.

  8. Assessment of small scale tallgrass prairie restoration in an urban environment

    Paul D. Mutch.

    Thesis, 2008.

    Tallgrass prairie restoration is an important conservation activity in rural areas. However, little is known about prairie restoration in urban environments. The overall objective of this study was to characterize and better understand urban prairie restoration. This was carried out through an examination of 29 restoration sites within Winnipeg, Manitoba. The results indicated that actively restored urban prairies were successful and high in diversity. Multiple attributes of the restorations were examined as indicators of success including vegetation, the propagule bank and insects. However, not all attributes delivered equivocal results. This suggests that multiple measures should be used to assess a restoration site. Anthropogenic and biophysical variables were found to influence vegetation of the restorations equally, highlighting the importance of incorporating a human component in urban ecological research. These urban restorations were seen to surpass larger rural restorations in quality; thus, efforts should be made to increase their prevalence.

  9. Monitoring tallgrass Prairie restoration performance using floristic Quality Assessment

    JM Mclndoe, PE Rothrock, RT Reber and DG Ruch.

    Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Sciences, Vol. 117, No. 1, 2008, pp. 16-28.

    Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA), a tool that allows botanists to quickly and effectively determine a site's natural quality, has primarily been used to identify and rank areas of remnant natural quality. In this study FQA was employed for long-term monitoring of the Upland Prairie, an ecological restoration project in Grant County, Indiana. In 1993, the year of planting, permanent transects were established to monitor community development as well as the effects of nitrogen enrichment and intermittent seasonal flooding. FQA was applied to species cover data collected nine times from 1993 through 2006. Analysis revealed that mean conservatism (MC) and floristic quality index (FQI) values rose with increasing site age as species dominance shifted from native and exotic weeds to native prairie grasses and forbs. Quadrat level metrics were more valuable for elucidating trends because transect level metrics were easily affected by slight differences in species composition year to year. FQA monitoring confirmed the impact of nitrogen enrichment reported in previous, intensive studies of the site. Areas prone to intermittent flooding scored lower MC and FQI scores because flooding inhibited the establishment of most prairie species. Mean wetness scores for these transects indicated that the vegetation was more representative of a wet meadow than mesic tallgrass prairie. This research determined that FQA is a useful, cost-effective tool for examining trends and responses to treatments and disturbances in prairie restorations.

  10. Root dynamics of three dominant prairie grasses from different population sources

    Ryan P. Klopf.

    Thesis, 2007.

    Dominance of warm-season grasses modulates tallgrass prairie ecosystem structure (e.g., community composition) and function (e.g., net primary production). Reintroduction of these grasses is a widespread practice to conserve soil, improve water quality, and restore tallgrass prairie ecosystems degraded from human land use changes such as agriculture. Seed sources for re-introduction of dominant prairie grass species include non-cultivar (collected from local remnant prairie) and selected (cultivar) populations. The overall objective of this study was to quantify whether intraspecific variation in developing root systems exists between population sources (non-cultivar and cultivar) of three dominant grasses used in restorations: Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem), Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass), and Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem). Non-cultivar and cultivar population sources of each species were isolated and grown in 7.62-cm diameter x 20 cm depth PVC cores inserted in a newly established experimental tallgrass prairie restoration at the Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS), Manhattan, KS. Non-cultivar source population seeds were collected from local remnant ecotypes at KPBS and recommended cultivar seeds were acquired from the USDA. I measured above- and below-ground net primary production (ANPP and BNPP), root architecture (root length, surface area, and volume), root tissue quality, and plant available inorganic nitrogen in each core at the end of the first growing season. Cultivars tended to have greater root length, surface area, and volume than non-cultivars for both S. nutans and S. scoparium. Two important soil resources, available inorganic N and water, were present in lower amounts in soil proximal to roots of cultivars than non-cultivars. Additionally, soil nitrate was negatively correlated with root volume in S. nutans and A. gerardii cultivars. Conversely, there were no correlations between soil N and root architecture among non-cultivars. While cultivars had greater below-ground net primary productivity (BNPP) than non-cultivars, this was not reflected above-ground, where ANPP was not different between cultivars and non-cultivars. There were no intraspecific differences in percent N, resulting in no difference in root tissue quality among species or sources. Overall, my results suggest there are some differences between cultivar and non-cultivar sources of the dominant prairie grasses used in restoration. These phenotypic differences may scale up to affect community and ecosystem properties, and consequently should be taken into consideration in the context of setting restoration goals and objectives.

  11. Short-term temporal effects on community structure of Lepidoptera in restored and remnant tallgrass prairies

    Keith S. {a} Summerville, Anson C. Bonte and Lena C. Fox.

    Restoration Ecology, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2007, pp. 179-188.

    Understanding the degree to which species assemblages naturally vary over time will be critically important when assessing whether direct management effects or contingency is responsible for species gain or loss. In this study, we tested three predictions related to short-term variation in prairie moth communities: (1) communities would only exhibit significant temporal variation in newly restored sites (1-3 years old); (2) prairie size and age would positively influence community reassembly, with larger, older restorations sampling a greater proportion of the regional species pool; and (3) older restorations (7-10 years old) would have yet to converge on the community composition of prairie remnants. Moths were sampled from 13 Tallgrass prairie restorations and remnants in central Iowa in 2004-2005. Repeated measures analysis of variance revealed significant effects of sampling year on moth species richness and abundance as well as on the richness of two functional groups, but difference among prairie types was only observed in 2005. Rarefaction analysis revealed that older restorations and prairie remnants supported higher species richness compared to recently planted sites, and nonmetric, multidimensional scaling ordination indicated that restorations older than 7 years were clearly converging on the species composition of remnants. These results suggest that moth communities in restorations and remnants are highly variable in time but that as restorations age, they appear to reaccumulate moth species found in prairie remnants. The long-term persistence of a particular species assemblage within a given site, however, might be a difficult endpoint to attain in central Iowa prairies because of significant annual variation in species occurrence.

  12. Assessing grassland restoration success: relative roles of seed additions and native ungulate activities

    Leanne M. Martin and Brian J. Wilsey.

    Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 43, No. 6, Dec 2006, pp. 1098-1109.

    Grassland restorations often lack rare forb and grass species that are found in intact grasslands. The possible reasons for low diversity include seed limitation, microsite limitation and a combination of both. Native ungulates may create microsites for seedling establishment in tallgrass prairie restorations by grazing dominant species or through trampling activities, but this has never been tested in developing prairies. We experimentally tested for seed and microsite limitation in the largest tallgrass prairie restoration in the USA by adding rare forb and grass seeds in two trials inside and outside native ungulate exclosures. We measured seedling emergence because this stage is crucial in recruiting species into a community. We also measured light, water and standing crop biomass to test whether resource availability could help to explain seedling emergence rates. Ungulates increased light availability for each sampling time and also increased above-ground net primary productivity (ANPP) during summer. Seedling emergence of rare prairie forbs and grasses was consistently greater when we added seeds. Seedling emergence was conditionally greater with a combination of seed additions and grazing, but grazing alone was unable to increase emergence. When ungulates increased seedling enhancement, the mechanism was partially associated with increased water and light availability. Exotic and cosmopolitan weed seedling emergence was not affected by grazing. Synthesis and applications. These results suggest that tallgrass prairie restorations are primarily seed limited and that grazing alone may not be able to increase seedling emergence of rare species without the addition of seeds. Therefore, adding seeds to grassland restorations may increase seedling emergence of rare species, and mimicking effects of grazing may increase emergence when seeds are added.

  13. Estimating floristic integrity in tallgrass prairie

    John B. Taft, Christopher Hauser and Kenneth R. Robertson.

    Biological Conservation, Vol. 131, No. 1, Jul 2006, pp. 42-51.

    Indices are needed in habitat conservation and restoration to provide repeatable measures relevant to conservation goals. A monitoring and research program was established at Nachusa Grasslands in north-central Illinois (USA) to assess progress in tallgrass prairie restoration and reconstruction efforts and evaluate the effectiveness of indices used to measure community-level properties related to vegetation integrity. Indices selected for comparison included standard diversity measures (e.g., Shannon-Weiner Index, Evenness, Species Richness) and indices developed specifically to estimate vegetation integrity. These latter indices included two unweighted diversity indices, the Species Richness Index and Native Richness Index, and two indices weighted by characteristics of species composition, the Floristic Quality Index (FQI) and its component Mean Coefficient of Conservatism (Mean C). A coefficient of conservatism (CC) is an integer ranging from 0 to 10 assigned a priori to each taxon in a regional flora that estimates the fidelity of a species to natural areas (non-native and most ruderal species are assigned 0 or low values, respectively; species known primarily from natural areas are assigned higher values). All indices compared in this study were calculated using vegetation data collected from equal-sized sampling grids stratified across seven prairie units. The units included remnants and plantings representing a wide range of habitat quality. The FQI and Mean C explained the most variation among sites and were most effective at distinguishing recognized qualitative differences indicating they can be more informative than traditional species-diversity measures in assessing floristic integrity within community types. The FQI and Mean C are applicable to both quantitative ecological monitoring and plotless survey methods.

  14. An assessment of grassland restoration success using species diversity components

    Leanne M. Martin, Kirk A. Moloney and Brian J. Wilsey.

    Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 42, No. 2, Apr 2005, pp. 327-336.

    We do not know which aspects of community structure and ecosystem processes are restorable for most ecosystems, yet this information is crucial for achieving successful restoration. We quantified three success criteria for 8-10-year-old grassland plantings in large-scale tallgrass prairie restoration (reconstruction) sites relative to three nearby prairie remnant sites. The restoration sites included management of native ungulates and fire, important regulators of diversity and patchiness in intact grasslands. These have not been incorporated simultaneously into previous studies of restoration success. We used the additive partitioning model of diversity, where alpha is neighbourhood (quadrat) scale diversity, beta is accumulation of species diversity across neighbourhoods, and gamma is total diversity. We decomposed alpha into richness and evenness to determine if both were equally restored. The proportion of exotic biomass was similar between the restoration and remnant sites, but the proportion of exotic species and above-ground net primary productivity remained between two and four times higher in the restoration sites. Alpha diversity (Simpson's 1/D) and richness (S) values were exceptionally high in remnant sites, and approximately twice those of the restoration sites. Alpha evenness was similar between the restoration and remnant sites. Distance per se between quadrats was not related to diversity after accumulated quadrat area was taken into account. Therefore, we may be able to use the additive partitioning model of diversity in areas that differ in size, at least at the scale of this study. Contrary to our original predictions, the proportion of beta diversity (1 - D) was approximately twice as high in the restoration sites than in remnant sites, possibly because patches of individual species were larger in the restoration. Synthesis and applications. We have shown that current restoration methods are unable to restore plant diversity in tallgrass prairie. Grassland restoration will be improved if the number of species that co-exist can be increased. New, local-scale restoration techniques are needed to replicate the high levels of diversity observed in tallgrass prairie remnant sites.

  15. Assessment of long-term tallgrass prairie restoration in Manitoba, Canada

    SM McLachlan and AL Knispel.

    Biological Conservation, Vol. 124, No. 1, Jul 2005, pp. 75-88.

    Ecological restoration is important in mitigating degradation and habitat loss of tallgrass prairie in North America. In 2002, we assessed the progress of a long-term tallgrass prairie restoration initiated in 1987 in southern Manitoba (Canada). Nine restoration and three reference sites were examined, as was a neighbouring site of future restoration that is now used for agriculture. Vegetation diversity, species composition, and associated soil properties were compared among restoration and reference sites, and changes associated with restoration identified. Restoration had a substantial effect on diversity and species composition, although restoration sites had significantly lower native and higher exotic diversity than reference sites. Overall and native diversity decreased over time, as both exotic and seeded native species were lost from the restoration sites. Particularly vulnerable were native forb species, which represent much of the diversity of prairie habitats. Forb presence was negatively associated with that of warm season native grasses, especially Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem). Similarity of restoration and reference vegetation increased over time, particularly for seeded native graminoids. When species that had been seeded elsewhere and had colonized restorations were examined, similarity between restoration and reference also increased with time, suggesting that older sites may be self-propagating. No significant differences in soil properties variables were observed among restoration sites, indicating that changes in these factors are slow relative to vegetation changes. Although time-since-restoration had a substantial impact on diversity and species composition, this habitat will require ongoing restoration.

  16. Diminishing effects of ant mounds on soil heterogeneity across a chronosequence of prairie restoration sites

    Diana R. {a} Lane and Hormoz BassiriRad.

    Pedobiologia 49(4) 2005: 359-366., Vol. 49, No. 4, 2005, pp. 359-366.

    It is well recognized that mound-building ants affect soil and vegetation heterogeneity, yet little is known about the extent to which such changes are propagated through time. We compared soil properties from ant mounds (built by Formica montana and Acanthamyops claviger) and from adjacent prairie soils at three tallgrass prairie restoration sites in the Midwestern United States, ranging in age from 8 to 26 years post-restoration of native species on former row-crop agriculture plots. We were particularly interested in N-dynamics on and off the mounds. All of the soil variables measured showed the greatest difference between mound and prairie soils at the 8-year old site. At that site, we found that ant mounds had significantly higher concentrations of total N, dissolved organic N, and NH4+ compared to prairie soil. Differences in concentrations of these nitrogen pools between mound and prairie soils were, however, lost with increasing time since restoration. The tack of N-enrichment at the older sites suggests that nutrient enrichment of ant mounds may be a transient phenomenon in certain ecosystems. To our knowledge, this is the first report that illustrates a critical, but a temporally dynamic rote of ant mounds in creating resource heterogeneity in a restoration project. [copyright] 2005 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

  17. Community- and ecosystem-level changes in a species-rich tallgrass prairie restoration

    P. Camill, MJ McKone, ST Sturges, et al.

    Ecological Applications, Vol. 14, No. 6, 2004, pp. 1680-1694.

    Changes in the plant community and ecosystem properties that follow the conversion of agriculture to restored tallgrass prairies are poorly understood. Beginning in 1995, we established a species-rich, restored prairie chronosequence where (similar to)3 ha of agricultural land have been converted to tallgrass prairie each year. Our goals were to examine differences in ecosystem properties between these restored prairies and adjacent agricultural fields and to determine changes in, and potential interactions between, the plant community and ecosystem properties that occur over time in the restored prairies. During the summers of 2000-2002, we examined species cover, soil C and N, potential net C and N mineralization, litter mass, soil texture, and bulk density across the 6- to 8-year-old prairie chronosequence and adjacent agricultural fields in southern Minnesota. We also established experimentally fertilized, watered, and control plots in the prairie chronosequence to examine the degree of nitrogen limitation on aboveground and belowground net primary production (ANPP and BNPP). Large shifts in functional diversity occurred within three growing seasons. First-year prairies were dominated by annuals and biennials. By the second growing season, perennial native composites had become dominant, followed by a significant shift to warm-season C4 grasses in prairies (greater-than or equal to)3 yr old. Ecosystem properties that changed with the rise of C4 grasses included increased BNPP, litter mass, and C mineralization rates and decreased N mineralization rates. ANPP increased significantly with N fertilization but did not vary between young and old prairies with dramatically different plant community composition. Total soil C and N were not significantly different between prairie and agricultural soils in the depths examined (0-10, 10-20, 20-35, 35-50, 50-65 cm). We compared the results from our species-rich prairie restoration to published data on ecosystem function in other restored grasslands, such as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and old-field successional sites. Results suggest that rapid changes in functional diversity can have large impacts on ecosystem-level properties, causing community- and system-level dynamics in species-rich prairie restorations to converge with those from low-diversity managed grasslands.

  18. Effects of Soil Carbon Amendment on Nitrogen Availability and Plant Growth in an Experimental Tallgrass Prairie Restoration

    Jack M. Averett, Robert A. Klips, Lucas E. Nave, Serita D. Frey and Peter S. Curtis.

    Restoration Ecology, Vol. 12, No. 4, Dec 2004, pp. 568-574.

    Restoration of tallgrass prairie on former agricultural land is often impeded by failure to establish a diverse native species assemblage and by difficulties with nonprairie, exotic species. High levels of available soil nitrogen (N) on such sites may favor fast-growing exotics at the expense of more slowly growing prairie species characteristic of low-N soils. We tested whether reducing N availability through soil carbon (C) amendments could be a useful tool in facilitating successful tallgrass prairie restoration. We added 6 kg-m super(2) hardwood sawdust to experimental plots on an abandoned agricultural field in the Sandusky Plains of central Ohio, United States, increasing soil C by 67% in the upper 15 cm. This C amendment caused a 94% reduction in annual net N mineralization and a 27% increase in soil moisture but had no effect on total N or pH. Overall, plant mass after one growing season was reduced by 64% on amended compared with unamended soil, but this effect was less for prairie forbs (-34%) than for prairie grasses (-67%) or exotics (-62%). After the second growing season, only exotics responded significantly to the soil C amendment, with a 40% reduction in mass. The N concentration of green-leaf tissue and of senescent leaf litter was also reduced by the soil C treatment in most cases. We conclude that soil C amendment imparts several immediate benefits for tallgrass prairie restoration--notably reduced N availability, slower plant growth, and lower competition from exotic species.

  19. Low allelopathic potential of an invasive forage grass on native grassland plants: A cause for encouragement?

    IJ Renne, BG Rios, JS Fehmi and BF Tracy.

    Basic and Applied Ecology, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2004, pp. 261-269.

    Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), a highly competitive European grass that invades US grasslands, is reportedly allelopathic to many agronomic plants, but its ability to inhibit the germination or growth of native grassland plants is unknown. In three factorial glasshouse experiments, we tested the potential allelopathic effects of endophyte-infected (E+) and uninfected (E-) tall fescue on native grasses and forbs from Midwestern tallgrass prairies. Relative to a water control, at least one extract made from ground seed, or ground whole plant tissue of E+ or E- tall fescue reduced the germination of 10 of 11 species in petri dishes. In addition, the emergence of two native grasses in potting soil was lower when sown with E+ and E- tall fescue seedlings than when sown with seeds of conspecifics or tall fescue. However, when seeds of 13 prairie species were sown in sterilized, field-collected soil and given water or one of the four tall fescue extracts daily, seedling emergence was lower in one extract relative to water for only one species, and subsequent height growth did not differ among treatments for any species. We conclude that if tall fescue is allelopathic, its inhibitory effects on the germination and seedling growth of native prairie plants are limited, irrespective of endophyte infection. On the other hand, the apparent inability of these plants to detect tall fescue in field soil could hinder prairie restoration efforts if germination near this strong competitor confers fitness consequences. We propose that lack of chemical recognition may be common among resident and recently introduced non-indigenous plants because of temporally limited ecological interactions, and offer a view that challenges the existing allelopathy paradigm. Lastly, we suggest that tall fescue removal will have immediate benefits to the establishment of native grassland plants. (copyright) 2004 Published by Elsevier GmbH.

  20. Assessing the Progress of a Tallgrass Prairie Restoration in Southern Wisconsin

    KR Brye, JM Norman and ST Gower.

    American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 148, No. 2, Oct 2002, pp. 218-235.

    Assessments of ecosystem restorations are necessary to improve restoration practices and goals. Restoration assessments, whether quantitative or qualitative, are also a vital part of managing previously degraded ecosystems. This study examined some of the key structural and functional characteristics and processes of a tallgrass prairie restoration near Arlington, Wisconsin for 5 y, 19 to 24 y after beginning restoration from cultivation, including mean annual drainage, N and C leaching, soil organic matter, pH, extractable P and K, total N and C contents, above- and belowground net primary production, leaf area index, soil surface CO2 flux and net N-mineralization. Total soil N and C contents of the prairie restoration were compared to other nearby prairie restorations, remnants and an adjacent agricultural field, all on similar soil, to determine the degree of change in ecosystem properties as a result of ecological restoration. Soil properties and processes and vegetation characteristics varied annually throughout the 5-y assessment period, but most soil properties showed no significant temporal trend. Only soil N content in the 0-30 cm layer increased significantly in the 5-y period, but the rate of N increase did not coincide with the rate typical of N inputs to a prairie. Results suggest that most soil properties have either already come to some equilibrium with the surrounding environment or their rates of change were too small to measure over 5 y. This study demonstrates the difficulties of ascribing changes in ecosystem properties to restoration. The spatial and temporal variability and slow rates of change make it difficult to discern differences between restored, disturbed and natural ecosystems.

  21. The Fate of Nutrients Following Three- and Six-year Burn Intervals in a Tallgrass Prairie Restoration in Wisconsin

    KR Brye, JM Norman and ST Gower.

    American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 148, No. 1, Jul 2002, pp. 28-42.

    Prescribed burning recycles essential plant nutrients and stimulates growth in prairie restoration. While reducing the content of nutrients in dry matter, prescribed burning may also alter the spatial variability and distribution of nutrients, which in turn could negatively impact long-term productivity. A study was conducted in a tallgrass prairie restoration at the Audubon Society's Goose Pond Sanctuary near Arlington, Wisconsin to characterize the content and spatial variability and distribution of macro- (i.e. , N, C, P, K, Ca, Mg and S) and micro-nutrients (i.e. , Zn, B, Mn, Cu, Fe, Al and Na) in the aboveground litter before burning and in the ash after burning following 3- and 6-y burn intervals. Aboveground litter mass was significantly higher in 2001 after the 3-y burn interval than in 1998 after the 6-y burn interval. The amount of preburn litter was consistently reduced by >90% for both burn intervals, but the reduction of dry matter and the reductions in mass of N, C, P, K and S were significantly higher in 2001 than in 1998. The 6-y burn interval resulted in nutrient export that was similar to nutrient inputs from atmospheric wet deposition, whereas the 3-y burn interval resulted in the export of N, K, Ca and Mg faster than they were replenished. Prescribed burning significantly affected the spatial variability of dry matter and the concentration and content of most macro- and micronutrients. However, prescribed burning had little effect on the pre- and postburn spatial distributions of macro- and micro-nutrient masses, which were similar to pre- and postburn spatial distributions of litter and ash masses, except for Fe and Al which had atypically large concentration variances.

  22. Fire Season and Dominance in an Illinois Tallgrass Prairie Restoration

    TE Copeland, W. Sluis and HF Howe.

    Restoration Ecology, Vol. 10, No. 2, Jun 2002, pp. 315-323.

    North American prairie remnants and restorations are normally managed with dormant-season prescribed fires. Growing-season fire is of interest because it suppresses dominant late-flowering grasses and forbs, thereby making available light and other resources used by subdominant grasses and forbs that comprise most prairie diversity. Here we report a twofold increase in mean frequency and richness of subdominant species after late-summer fire. Stimulation of subdominants was indiscriminate; richness of prairie and volunteer species increased in species that flowered in early, mid-, or late season. Early spring fire, the management tool used on this site until this experiment, had no effect on subdominant richness or frequency. Neither burn treatment affected reproductive tillering of the tallgrasses Sorghastrum nutans or Panicum virgatum . Flowering of Andropogon gerardii increased 4-fold after early-spring fires and 11-fold after late-summer fires. These preliminary results suggest that frequency and species richness of subdominants can be improved by late growing-season fire without compromising vigor of warm-season tallgrasses.

  23. Genetic diversity and competitive abilities of Dalea purpurea (Fabaceae) from remnant and restored grasslands

    DJ Gustafson, DJ Gibson and DL Nickrent.

    International journal of plant sciences, Vol. 163, No. 6, 2002, pp. 979-990.

    Allozyme and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analyses were used to characterize the genetic relationships of Dalea purpurea from remnant and restored Illinois tallgrass prairies and a large remnant tallgrass prairie in Kansas. The remnant Illinois populations were less genetically diverse than the restored Illinois populations and the Kansas population. These restored Illinois populations were established with at least two seed sources that were locally collected. There was little population divergence (FST = 0.042), which is consistent with other perennial forbs, while the genetic relationships among populations reflected geographic proximity. In a greenhouse competition experiment, differences in performance between seedlings was not related to the remnant or restored status of Illinois populations, but plants from Kansas were significantly smaller than Illinois plants. Genetic diversity and competitive ability were not associated with the size of the original source population. Our data indicate that using multiple local seed sources for restoration projects will maintain the local gene pool while enhancing the regional genetic diversity of this species.


    Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Washington DC, 2002.

    PURPOSE: The implementation of a 10- to 15-year land and resource management plan for the 16,000-acre Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County, Illinois is proposed. The area is located 45-miles southwest of Chicago, 15 miles south of Joliet, and three miles north of Wilmington. A large part of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was transferred to the Forest Service in 1997, allowing for the establishment of the prairie reserve. Previous land uses have severely altered the prairie landscape and ecosystem. Much of the area was plowed for agricultural purposes and is underlain with a complex system of drain tiles. Crop production and cattle grazing continue today. Stream channels were straightened and numerous ditches constructed by the Army. During Army administration, a complex road and rail system connected the extensive system of warehouses, cement bunkers, and other facilities used for ammunition production. While only three percent of what is now Medwin survived as native plant communities, the site is able to host a rich assemblage of plant and animal species, including three species on the federal list of threatened and endangered species and 26 species recognized as sensitive by the Forest Service. Habitat types include rare dolomite prairie, short and medium stature agricultural grasslands, wetlands, woodlands, and native prairie surviving as small isolated remnants. Key issues identified during the scoping process include those related to visitor safety and health, habitat diversity, amount and structure of grassland habitat, restoration of native prairie and wetlands, recreational developments and opportunities, re-introduction of bison and/or elk, and educational and research opportunities. Six alternatives, including a No Action Alternative (Alternative 1), are considered in this final EIS. The preferred alternative (Alternative 4) would focus on upland and wet prairie/sedge restoration, with less grassland habitat, in order to maximize native prairie restoration. The alternative would offer moderate recreational development, providing a mix of opportunities compatible with restoration, a visitors' center, campground, and a mix of trail lengths and trail types. Present net value for the preferred alternative is expected to result in a loss of $291.8 million. POSITIVE IMPACTS: The plan would manage land and water resources to conserve and enhance native wildlife, fish, and plant populations and habitat, including habitat for threatened and endangered species; provide opportunities for scientific, environmental, and land use education and research; allow for continuation of agricultural land use for resource management purposes; and provide for a variety of recreational opportunities that would be compatible with other plan purposes. Water quality and watershed conditions would improve, and the area restored to historic or more natural patterns of flooding would increase. NEGATIVE IMPACTS: Water pumped for livestock could affect aquifer levels, but this impact can be mitigated by limiting use to less than 2,000 gallons per day. Prescribed burning would result in short-term reduction of visibility and degradation of air quality. Agricultural revenues would decline. LEGAL MANDATES: Illinois Land Conservation Act of 1995. PRIOR REFERENCES: For the abstract of the draft EIS, see 01-0286, Volume 25, Number 3.

  25. When Is a Restoration Successful? Results from a 45-Year-Old Tallgrass Prairie Restoration

    SK Allison.

    Ecological Restoration, Vol. 20, No. 1, Mar 2002, pp. 10-17.

    A survey of the third oldest tallgrass prairie restoration in the Midwest demonstrates the difficulty of achieving a "complete restoration."

  26. Arbuscular mycorrhizae promote establishment of prairie species in a tallgrass prairie restoration

    MR Smith, I. Charvat and RL Jacobson.

    Canadian Journal of Botany, Vol. 76, No. 11, 1998, pp. 1947-1954.

    The effect that arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) inoculum has on the development of an early successional tallgrass prairie restoration was investigated in field plots of a recently disturbed area in Minnesota, U.S.A. Mycorrhizal inoculum reproduced from a native prairie was placed below a mix of prairie seed. Two sets of control plots were established, those with seed only and those with seed and a sterilized soil. By the end of 15 months, plants in the inoculated plots had a significantly greater percentage of roots colonized by AM fungi. While inoculation had no effect on total percent cover of plants, percent cover of native planted grasses was significantly greater in the inoculated plots than in the two sets of controls. The increase in percent cover of native grasses may increase the rate of succession, by allowing these grasses to outcompete the ruderal species also present at the site. Our findings suggest that inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizae promotes the development of early successional tallgrass prairie communities.

  27. Floristic and Soil Organic Matter Changes after Five and Thirty-Five Years of Native Tallgrass Prairie Restoration

    K. Kindscher and LL Tieszen.

    Restoration Ecology, Vol. 6, No. 2, Jun 1998, pp. 181-196.

    We studied two tallgrass prairies and adjacent restoration areas in northeast Kansas to analyze (1) the invasion of native tallgrass prairie species from native prairie source populations into replanted areas; (2) the establishment of planted prairie species five and 35 years after being sown; and (3) the effects of native prairie species on soil organic matter. For the majority of dominant species, composition differed statistically between sampled areas even though seed rain was available from the native tallgrass prairie remnants. Plant community differences were statistically different between each native prairie area and all respective restoration sites according to the Multiple Response Permutation Procedure. In addition, species richness was greatly reduced in replanted areas compared to adjacent native prairie remnants. Soil carbon isotope ratios indicated that the planting of warm-season grasses resulted in substantial replacement of old soil organic matter by the newly replanted grasses but that it did not create substantial increases of soil organic matter beyond replacement. The lack of accumulation reflects a nutrient-poor system (nitrogen-poor in particular), and the relative absence of native or introduced nitrogen-fixing plant species on the replanted areas may be a significant factor. It appears that restoration of the original highly diverse vegetation component of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem, even when aided by seeding and an adjacent prairie seed source, will occur on carbon- and nitrogen-depleted soils only over very long periods of time (perhaps centuries), if at all.

  28. Changes in soil aggregation associated with tallgrass prairie restoration

    JD Jastrow.

    American Journal of Botany, Vol. 74, No. 11, 1987, pp. 1656-1664.

    To investigate the dynamics of soil aggregation associated with the restoration of cultivated soil to tallgrass prairie, changes in soil aggregation and aboveground production were compared in a corn field, restored prairie plantings of various ages (second, fifth, eighth, and eleventh growing season), and an uncultivated prairie remnant. The restored prairie was also compared with a long-term (fourteenth growing season) ungrazed pasture dominated by Eurasian grasses. Results suggest that C4 prairie graminoids may confer some advantage over introduced C3 Eurasian grasses for the development of water-stable aggregates in soils of the Prairie Peninsula.