Plant community changes associated with prairie dog usage of a suburban remnant of the Shortgrass Steppe

Hartley, Laurel, author
SGS-LTER, Colorado State University, publisher
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Dr. Detling and others have documented changes in plant communities in the mixed grass prairie caused by the herbivory of the Black-tailed prairie dog, Cynomys ludovicianus. Canopy height, litter cover, and graminoid cover relative to forbs decrease, while species diversity, nitrogen mineralization, and plant shoot protein increase. The shortgrass steppe is significantly different from the mixed grass prairie: precipitation is lower, the grasses are dominated by the drought resistant (hence grazing resistant) grass blue grama, and prairie dog colonies are killed off periodically by plague. Additionally, in the suburban setting, large herbivores are excluded, habitat is fragmented, human interaction is increased, and there is an increased presence of non-native species. Currently, SGS-LTER graduate students are researching changes in plant communities in response to prairie dog herbivory on the shortgrass steppe at the SGS-LTER site and Pawnee National Grasslands in order to compare to the results from the mixed grass prairie. In this study, we are tracking changes in the plant community in response to prairie dog herbivory on a suburban shortgrass steppe remnant which we hope to compare to the results from the SGS-LTER/PNG and the mixed grass prairie. We hope to provide useful data for local agencies creating management plans for natural areas along the Front Range.
The SGS-LTER research site was established in 1980 by researchers at Colorado State University as part of a network of long-term research sites within the US LTER Network, supported by the National Science Foundation. Scientists within the Natural Resource Ecology Lab, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, and Biology Department at CSU, California State Fullerton, USDA Agricultural Research Service, University of Northern Colorado, and the University of Wyoming, among others, have contributed to our understanding of the structure and functions of the shortgrass steppe and other diverse ecosystems across the network while maintaining a common mission and sharing expertise, data and infrastructure.
Colorado State University. Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory; Colorado State University. Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship; Colorado State University. Department of Soil and Crop Sciences; Colorado State University. Department of Biology; California State University, Fullerton; United States. Agricultural Research Service; University of Northern Colorado; Rocky Mountain High School.
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shortgrass steppe
Central Plains Experimental Range
Pawnee National Grassland
long term ecological research
grassland ecology
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