Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sustaining the biodiversity of the western Great Plains, U.S.

Date:
March 2, 2011
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
Fire, cattle and even prairie dogs all could play a role in sustaining the biodiversity of the western Great Plains, according to new research.

Fire, cattle and even prairie dogs all could play a role in sustaining the biodiversity of the western Great Plains, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researcher.

Related Articles


As large grazers, cattle now perform the historical role of buffalo on the Great Plains. Ecologist David Augustine and his colleagues-in collaboration with state, federal, and university researchers-have results from several studies over the past 13 years showing that fire, cattle and prairie dogs together maintain a mosaic of diverse vegetation, with varying vegetation heights, that supports a variety of wildlife as well as cattle.

Augustine works at USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Rangeland Resources Research Unit headquartered in Cheyenne, Wyo. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Some ground-nesting birds, such as mountain plovers, and other declining populations of grassland wildlife thrive best among short plants, possibly because this enables them to see coyotes, hawks and other predators. The black-tailed prairie dogs occur in the same places, probably because of the same survival instinct.

Prairie dogs actually modify their environment to their benefit: They make grass short by eating it. Their grazing also creates lots of bare soil, which is key to plover nesting success. The bare soil helps camouflage the brown-colored plovers. But both plovers and prairie dogs can use some help from fire.

Prescribed burns are carefully controlled fires that remove old standing dead plant material and increase the exposure of bare soil. Augustine and Colorado State University researcher Daniel Milchunas studied prescribed burns on Colorado's Pawnee National Grassland.

They found that, except after severe drought, prescribed burns done during late winter in grazed shortgrass steppe do not reduce the amount of forage produced, but do increase forage protein content, starting with the first spring after burning.

In a related study during 2007 and 2008 on the Pawnee National Grassland, Augustine, Milchunas, and Justin Derner, research leader at the Cheyenne unit, found that prescribed burning enhanced the digestibility of blue grama grass.

This research was published in the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Rangeland Ecology & Management, and an additional paper will be published in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 2011.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David J. Augustine, Justin D. Derner, Daniel G. Milchunas. Prescribed Fire, Grazing, and Herbaceous Plant Production in Shortgrass Steppe. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 2010; 63 (3): 317 DOI: 10.2111/REM-D-09-00044.1

Cite This Page:

USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Sustaining the biodiversity of the western Great Plains, U.S.." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302121834.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2011, March 2). Sustaining the biodiversity of the western Great Plains, U.S.. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302121834.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Sustaining the biodiversity of the western Great Plains, U.S.." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302121834.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins