Konza Prairie LTER

A bison herd is maintained on Konza Prairie for research into the role of grazing on the ecology of the tallgrass prairie

Key Research Findings:

Restoration ecology seeks to repair the diversity and dynamics of ecosystems degraded by human activities.
Understanding the ecological effects of fire and grazing in grasslands is an important aspect of research at the Konza Prairie (KNZ) LTER site.
Predicting how ecosystems will respond to forecast environmental changes and to evaluate the consequences of those responses is a major challenge for ecologists today.

Overview:

The focal site for the Konza Prairie LTER program is the Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS), a 3,487-hectare native tallgrass prairie research station owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. KPBS is located in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas (39°05'N, 96°35'W). The Flint Hills ecoregion encompasses over 25,000 km2 that covers much of eastern Kansas from near the Kansas-Nebraska border south into northeastern Oklahoma and contains the largest remaining area of unplowed tallgrass prairie in North America. The vegetation at KPBS is primarily (>90%) native tallgrass prairie, dominated by perennial C4 grasses, but numerous sub-dominant grasses, forbs and woody species contribute to its high floristic diversity.


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History:

The Konza Prairie Biological Station was founded in 1971. Several adjoining tracts, including the 2,923-hectare historic Dewey Ranch were added between 1971 and 1979. The station lands were purchased for KSU by The Nature Conservancy with funds provided by Katharine Ordway. Konza Prairie was one of 6 original LTER sites selected by NSF in 1981 and is now in its seventh funding cycle (LTER VII: 2014-2020). From its inception, the Konza LTER program explicitly recognized fire, grazing by large ungulates, and climatic variability as three critical and interactive drivers that determine the structure and dynamics of tallgrass prairies. The current Konza LTER program continues that focus, but with increased emphasis on the consequences of global change for ecological dynamics in grasslands, a theme relevant to understanding, managing and conserving grasslands worldwide.


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Research Topics:

The Konza Prairie LTER Program is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary research program designed to provide an understanding of ecological processes in mesic grasslands, particularly tallgrass prairie, and contribute to conceptual and theoretical advances in the field of ecology. Some current areas of interest include: grassland ecology; effects of fire, grazing and climatic variability as essential and interactive factors affecting the structure and function of mesic grassland ecosystems; patterns and controls of productivity; plant-herbivore interactions; soil ecology; spatial and temporal dynamics of plant and animal populations and communities; landscape ecology; grassland responses to climatic variability and climate change.


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