Environmental Management

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 849-861

First online:

Effects of Short- and Long-Term Disturbance Resulting from Military Maneuvers on Vegetation and Soils in a Mixed Prairie Area

  • Sherry A. LeisAffiliated withDepartment of Plant and Soil Science, Oklahoma State University Email author 
  • , David M. EngleAffiliated withDepartment of Plant and Soil Science, Oklahoma State University
  • , David M. LeslieJrAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Oklahoma State University
  • , Jeffrey S. FehmiAffiliated withU.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, Ecological Processes Branch

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Loss of grassland species resulting from activities such as off-road vehicle use increases the need for models that predict effects of anthropogenic disturbance. The relationship of disturbance by military training to plant species richness and composition on two soils (Foard and Lawton) in a mixed prairie area was investigated. Track cover (cover of vehicle disturbance to the soil) and soil organic carbon were selected as measures of short- and long-term disturbance, respectively. Soil and vegetation data, collected in 1-m2 quadrats, were analyzed at three spatial scales (60, 10, and 1 m2). Plant species richness peaked at intermediate levels of soil organic carbon at the 10-m2 and 1-m2 spatial scales on both the Lawton and Foard soils, and at intermediate levels of track cover at all three spatial scales on the Foard soil. Species composition differed across the disturbance gradient on the Foard soil but not on the Lawton soil. Disturbance increased total plant species richness on the Foard soil. The authors conclude that disturbance up to intermediate levels can be used to maintain biodiversity by enriching the plant species pool.


Community dynamics Intermediate disturbance hypothesis Military disturbance Mixed-grass prairie Richness Soil carbon Vehicular tracking