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:

Grasslands and wooded grasslands cover around 40% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface and more than ¼ of global runoff originates from these systems. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the ecology and unique properties of streams that link grasslands to downstream habitats.
Climate is a critical driver of grassland structure and function. Grasslands occur in areas that are prone to occasional drought and are characterized by highly variable patterns of rainfall, both between (inter-annually) and within (intra-annually) years.
Understanding the ecological effects of fire and grazing in grasslands is an important aspect of research at the Konza Prairie (KNZ) LTER site.

Overview: The focal site for the Konza Prairie LTER program is the Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS). KPBS is a 3,487 hectare native tallgrass prairie field research station owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. KPBS is located in the Flint Hills region of northeastern Kansas (39°05'N, 96°35'W). The Flint Hills encompasses over 50,000 km2 throughout 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 under the leadership of Professor Lloyd Hulbert (KSU). Several adjoining tracts, including the 2,923 hectare historic Dewey Ranch were purchased between 1971 and 1979. The station lands were purchased for KSU by The Nature Conservancy with funds provided by Katharine Ordway. The site was originally named Konza Prairie Research Natural Area for the Konza Indians, a native American tribe that once inhabited the region, and was re-named Konza Prairie Biological Station in 2000. Konza Prairie was one of 6 original LTER sites selected by NSF in 1981 and is now in its fifth funding cycle (LTER V: 2002-2008). With each successive funding cycle, LTER research goals at Konza Prairie have been redirected and expanded, but the emphasis on fire, grazing and climate together with long-term studies in each of the 5 core areas have been, and continue to be, a baseline research effort that receives high priority.
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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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