Effects of Grazing and Fire Frequency on Floristic Quality and its Relationship to Indicators of Soil Quality in Tallgrass Prairie
- 499 Downloads
Fire and grazing are widely used to manage grasslands for conservation purposes, but few studies have evaluated the effects of these drivers on the conservation value of plant communities measured by the floristic quality index (FQI). Further, the influence of fire and grazing on soil properties and functions are difficult for land managers and restoration practitioners to assess. The objectives of this study were to: (1) quantify the independent and interactive effects of grazing and fire frequency on floristic quality in native tallgrass prairie to provide potential benchmarks for community assessment, and (2) to explore whether floristic quality can serve as an indicator of soil structure and function for more holistic ecosystem assessments. A factorial combination of fire frequencies (1–2, 4, and 20 years return intervals) and grazing (by bison or ungrazed) treatments were sampled for plant species composition, and for several indicators of soil quality in lowland tallgrass prairie. Floristic quality, diversity, and richness were higher in grazed than ungrazed prairie over all fire frequencies (P < 0.05). Available inorganic N, microbial biomass N, total N, and soil bulk density were also higher in grazed prairie soil over all fire frequencies (P < 0.05). Microbial biomass C, total organic C, and total soil N were positively correlated with FQI (P < 0.05). This study shows that floristic quality and soil N pools are more strongly influenced by grazing than fire and that floristic quality can be an indicator of total soil C and N stocks in never cultivated lowland prairie.
KeywordsBison Grassland Microbial biomass Nitrogen Restoration Soil carbon
We thank T. Adams, H. Bishop, and D. Scott for assistance with collecting soil samples, A. Rothert (SIU Core Facility for Ecological Analysis) for assistance with soil analyses, and staff at the Konza Prairie Biological Station for facilitating this research. This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research program at Konza Prairie.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
This article does not contain studies with human participants or animals by any of the authors.
- Baer SG, Rice CW, Blair JM (2000) Assessment of soil quality in fields with short and long term enrollment in the CRP. J Soil and Water Conserv 55: 142–146Google Scholar
- Briggs JM, Knapp AK (2001) Determinents of C3 forb growth and production in a C4 dominated grassland. Plant Ecol 152:93–100Google Scholar
- Clarke KR, Warwick RM (2001) Chapter 8: Diversity measures, dominance curves and other statistical analyses. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (eds) Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Primer-E Ltd., Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK, p 8–1Google Scholar
- Collins SL, Steinauer EM (1998) Disturbance, diversity, and species interactions in tallgrass prairie. In: Knapp AK, Briggs JM, Hartnett DC, Collins SC (eds) Grassland dynamics: long-term ecological research in tallgrass prairie. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, p 140–156Google Scholar
- Doran J, Parkin T (1994) Defining and assessing soil quality. In: Doran J, Coleman D, Bezdicek D, Stewart B (eds) Defining soil quality for a sustainable environment. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, pp 3–21Google Scholar
- Doran J, Parkin T (1996) Defining and assessing soil quality. In: Doran J, Coleman D, Bezdicek D, Stewart B (eds) Defining soil quality for a sustainable environment. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, pp 25–37Google Scholar
- Gibson DJ, Hulbert LC (1987) Effects of fire, topography and year-to-year climate variation on species composition in tallgrass prairie. Vegetatio 72:175–185Google Scholar
- Hulbert LC (1985) History and use of Konza prairie research natural area. Prairie Scout 5:63–93Google Scholar
- Jantz DR, Hanner RF, Rowland HT, Grier DA (1975) Soil survey of Riley county and parts of Geary county. Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station Manhattan, KansasGoogle Scholar
- McCune B, Grace JB (2002) Species Diversity. In: McCune B, Grace JB (eds) Analysis of species composition. MjM Software Design, Glenden Beach, pp 25–34Google Scholar
- Minchin PR (1989) DECODA user's manual. Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, CanberraGoogle Scholar
- Paul EA, Harris D, Klug MJ, Ruess RW (1999) Soil carbon and nitrogen availability: nitrogen mineralization, nitrification, and soil respiration potentials. In: Robertson GP, Blesdoe CS, Coleman DC, Sollins P (eds) Standard soil methods for long-term ecological research. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, p 258–271Google Scholar
- Rice CW, Garcia FO (1994) Biological active pools of carbon and nitrogen in tallgrass prairie soil. Soil Sci Soc Am J 35:201–207Google Scholar
- Robertson GP, Wedin D, Groffman PM, Blair JM, Holland EA, Nadelhoffer KJ, Harris D (1999) Soil carbon and nitrogen availability: nitrogen mineralization, nitrification, and soil respiration potentials. In: Robertson GP, Blesdoe CS, Coleman DC, Sollins P (eds) Standard soil methods for long-term ecological research. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, p 258–271Google Scholar
- Rusu T, Bogdan I, Marin DI, Moraru PI, Pop AI, Duda BM (2015) Effect of conservation agriculture on yield and protecting environmental resources. Agrolife Sci J 4:141–145Google Scholar
- SAS Institute Inc. (2016) Base SAS 9.4 Procedure Guide. Cary, NC: SAS Institure Inc.Google Scholar
- Swink F, Wilhelm GS (1994) Plants of the Chicago region, 4th edn.. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis, INGoogle Scholar
- Taft JB, Wilhelm GS, Ladd DM, Masters LA (1997) Floristic quality assessment for vegetation in Illinois, a method for assessing vegetation integrity. Erigenia 15:3–95Google Scholar
- USDA, NRCS (2016) The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901, USA. http://plants.usda.gov. Accessed 21 Apr 2016
- van der Wall C, Kool A, Meijer SS, Kohi E, Heitkönig IMA, de Boer WF, van Lengevelde F, Grant RC, Peel MJS, Slotow R, de Knegt HJ, Prins HHT, de Kroon H (2011) Large herbivores may alter vegetation structure of semi-arid savannas through soil nutrient mediation. Oecologia 165:1095–1107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- White PS, Walker JL (1997) Approximating nature’s variation: selecting and using reference information in restoration. Ecology 5:338–349Google Scholar