, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 699–711 | Cite as

Grasshopper (Orthoptera: Acrididae) communities respond to fire, bison grazing and weather in North American tallgrass prairie: a long-term study

  • Jayne L. JonasEmail author
  • Anthony Joern
Community Ecology


Because both intrinsic and extrinsic factors influence insect population dynamics, operating at a range of temporal and spatial scales, it is difficult to assess their contributions. Long-term studies are ideal for assessing the relative contributions of multiple factors to abundance and community dynamics. Using data spanning 25 years, we investigate the contributions of weather at annual and decadal scales, fire return interval, and grazing by bison to understand the dynamics of abundance and community composition in grasshopper assemblages from North American continental grassland. Each of these three primary drivers of grassland ecosystem dynamics affects grasshopper population and community dynamics. Negative feedbacks in abundances, as expected for regulated populations, were observed for all feeding guilds of grasshoppers. Abundance of grasshoppers did not vary in response to frequency of prescribed burns at the site. Among watersheds that varied with respect to controlled spring burns and grazing by bison, species composition of grasshopper assemblages responded significantly to both after 25 years. However, after more than 20 years of fire and grazing treatments, the number of years since the last fire was more important than the managed long-term fire frequency per se. Yearly shifts in species composition (1983–2005), examined using non-metric multidimensional scaling and fourth-corner analysis, were best explained by local weather events occurring early in grasshopper life cycles. Large-scale patterns were represented by the Palmer Drought Severity Index and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The NAO was significantly correlated with annual mean frequencies of grasshoppers, especially for forb- and mixed-feeding species. Primary grassland drivers—fire, grazing and weather—contributing both intrinsic and extrinsic influences modulate long-term fluctuations in grasshopper abundances and community taxonomic composition.


Fire frequency Konza Prairie Long-Term Ecological Research Program Weather Insect populations 



Konza Prairie is partly owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed by the Division of Biology at Kansas State University (KSU) though the KPBS. Many individuals contributed to the development and maintenance of the Konza Prairie grasshopper database over the 25 years of its existence, especially E. W. Evans, B. Danner, and A. Kuhl. We also are indebted to A. Kula and G. Towne for early discussions of the Konza LTER database. S. Dray (University of Lyon, France) and J. Higgins (KSU Department of Statistics) assisted with statistical analyses. S. Dray, J. Apple, S. Parsons and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on previous drafts of the manuscript. Research was supported by the NSF LTER Program at KPBS, NSF DEB0456522, and NSF EPS0553722 (Ecological Forecasting). This is publication 07–247-J from the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station. This research was conducted in accordance with the laws of Riley County, Kansas.

Supplementary material

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© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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