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SGS-LTER long-term monitoring project: vegetation cover and structure on small mammal trapping webs on the Central Plains Experimental Range, Nunn, Colorado, USA 1999 -2006, ARS study number 118


This data package was produced by researchers working on the Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research (SGS-LTER) Project, administered at Colorado State University. Long-term datasets and background information (proposals, reports, photographs, etc.) on the SGS-LTER project are contained in a comprehensive project collection within the Repository ( The data table and associated metadata document, which is generated in Ecological Metadata Language, may be available through other repositories serving the ecological research community and represent components of the larger SGS-LTER project collection. The abundance and diversity of small mammals in shortgrass steppe is strongly influenced by the structure and composition of vegetation. Vegetation structure provides cover from predators and harsh abiotic conditions. Plant species composition affects the types of seeds and herbaceous material available to granivores and herbivores, and influences arthropod populations, which are important prey for the omnivorous species that dominate in shortgrass steppe. Both vegetation structure and plant community composition are sensitive to the availability of precipitation as well as the activity of large mammalian herbivores. In 1999, we began measuring vegetation structure and plant community composition on the three grassland and three shrubland trapping webs where we live-trap small mammals. Vegetation measurements are made once each year, usually in mid-July. Percent canopy cover of each plant species was estimated visually in 30 0.10-m2 Daubenmire quadrats on each web. To estimate habitat structure, we measured the height of grass, forb and shrub plants adjacent to each quadrat, the density of half-shrubs, small mammal mounds and burrows, harvester ant mounds and the dimensions of large shrubs and animal mounds.


The Short Grass Steppe site encompasses a large portion of the Colorado Piedmont Section of the western Great Plains. The extent is defined as the boundaries of the Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER). The CPER has a single ownership and landuse (livestock grazing). The PNG is characterized by a mosaic of ownership and land use. Ownership includes federal, state or private and land use consists of livestock grazing or row-crops. There are NGO conservation groups that exert influence over the area, particularly on federal lands.
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL)
Shortgrass Steppe-Long Term Ecological Research (SGS-LTER)

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vegetation structure
population dynamics
community dynamics


Associated Publications

Lauenroth, W. K., and Burke, I. C., Ecology of the Shortgrass Steppe: A Long-Term Perspective (Long-Term Ecological Research Network). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008.