Grazing by bison is a stronger driver of plant ecohydrology in tallgrass prairie than fire history
- 442 Downloads
Background and Aims
Fire and grazing are important disturbances in grasslands, yet we know little about how they impact a variety of plant physiological processes such as plant ecohydrology. Here, we assessed the impact of fire history and grazing by Bison bison on the source of water uptake and niche overlap in common grassland species at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, a temperate mesic grassland located in northeastern Kansas, USA.
We used the stable isotopic signature of soil and xylem water to evaluate water uptake in Andropogon gerardii, Vernonia baldwinii, Amorpha canescens, and Rhus glabra within varying grazing (grazed, ungrazed), fire (0,1,2 or 3 years since last burn), topography (upland, lowland), and month (July, August) contrasts over 3 years (2013–2015).
The presence of grazers, not fire history, altered water uptake patterns in these common grassland species. Particularly, grazing increased the proportion of shallow water utilized by A. gerardii and R. glabra, reducing niche overlap with other co-occurring species. However, these responses varied intra-annually and were often modulated by topography.
These results suggest that grazing can alter aspects of grassland ecohydrology at small scales, which may extend to impact community and ecosystem processes at larger spatial scales.
KeywordsFire Herbivory Stable isotopes Source water Niche overlap Mesic grassland
We would like to thank Braden Hoch, Andy Muench, Rachel Keen, Ben Ketter, Patrick O’Neal, Lindsey Swartz, Jeff Taylor, and Josh Taylor for their help with sample collection and data processing. We also thank Tony Joern for helpful comments on the manuscript. Funding was provided for K. O’Keefe by the Kansas State University NSF GK-12 program (Grant #NSF DGE-0841414) and a Prairie Biotic Research Small Grant. Funding for both K. O’Keefe and J. Nippert was provided by the Konza Prairie LTER program (NSF DEB-1440484).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Bartoń K (2009) MuMIn: multi-model inference. R package, version 0.12.2Google Scholar
- Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B, Walker S (2014) lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using eigen and S4. R package version 1Google Scholar
- R Core Team (2012) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0.http://www.R-project.org/
- Eby S, Burkepile DE, Fynn RWS, Burns CE, Govender N, Hagenah N, Koerner SE, Matchett KJ, Thompson DI, Wilcox KR, Collins SL, Kirkman KP, Knapp AK, Smith MD (2014) Loss of a large grazer impacts savanna grassland plant communities similarly in North America and South Africa. Oecologia 175:293–303. doi: 10.1007/s00442-014-2895-9 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Gelman A, Su YS, Yajima M, Hill J, Pittau MG, Kerman J, Zheng T., Dorie V (2009) arm: data analysis using regression and multi- level ⁄ hierarchical models. R package, version 9.01. Available at: http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=arm
- Grossiord C, Gessler A, Granier A, Berger S, Brechet C, Hentschel R, Hommel R, Scherer-Lorenzen M, Bonal D (2014) Impact of interspecific interactions on the soil water uptake depth in a young temperate mixed species plantation. J Hydrol 519:3511–3519. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.11.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hamilton RG (2007) Restoring heterogeneity on the tallgrass prairie preserve: applying the fire–grazing interaction model. In: Master RE, Galley KEM (eds) Proceedings of the 23rd tall timbers fire ecology conference: fire in grassland and shrubland ecosystems. Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, pp 163–169Google Scholar
- Jantz DR, Harner RF, Rowland HT, Grier DA (1975) Soil survey of Riley County and part of Geary County, Kansas. United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service in cooperation with Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Oviatt CG (1998) Geomorphology of Konza Prairie. In: Knapp AK, Briggs JM, Hartnett DC, Collins SL (eds) Grassland dynamics: long-term ecological research in tallgrass prairie. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 35–47Google Scholar
- Priyadarshini KVR, Prins HHT, de Bie S, Heitkönig IMA, Woodborne S, Gort G, Kirkman K, Ludwig F, Dawson TE, de Kroon H (2015) Seasonality of hydraulic redistribution by trees to grasses and changes in their water‐source use that change tree–grass interactions. Ecohydrology 9:218–228. doi: 10.1002/eco.1624 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Tucker SS, Craine JM, Nippert JB (2011) Physiological drought tolerance and the structuring of tallgrass prairie assemblages. Ecosphere 2:UNSP 48. doi: 10.1890/ES11-00023.1
- Van der Hoek DJ, Knapp AK, Briggs JM, Bokdam J (2002) White-tailed deer browsing on six shrub species of tallgrass prairie. Great Plains Res 12:141–156Google Scholar
- Weaver JE (1968) Prairie plants and their environment: a fifty-year study in the Midwest. University of Nebraska Press, LincolnGoogle Scholar