• Wind Cave National Park - Two Worlds

    Wind Cave

    National Park South Dakota

Abstract - Evaluation of Potential Herbivore Mediation of Plant Water Status in a North American Mixed-Grass Prairie

Archer, Steve. 1986. Evaluation of Potential Herbivore Mediation of Plant Water Status in a North American Mixed-Grass Prairie. OIKOS. 47. pp. 287-291.

Abstract

Xylem water potentials were monitored diurnally from June through August 1981 to ascertain the water status of plants of four species growing on a heavily grazed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colony and an adjacent lightly grazed site in southwestern South Dakota. Highest water potential values were observed in June and August after periods of relatively light precipitation. Lowest values occurred in July when soil moisture had been depleted. However, there were no large differences in water potential value of grasses (Agropyron smithii, Andropogon gerardii, and A. scoparius) growing on and off the prairie dog colony, even though root biomass of plants on the colony was substantially lower. While midday leaf conductance was comparable for A. smithii tillers on and off the colony, conductance values for A. gerardii and A. scoparius tillers were generally higher (17 to 60%) on the heavily grazed site. Artemisia frigida plants had slightly higher water potential values on the prairie dog town during periods of moderate or high water stress. Soil moisture content was sightly but significantly (P < 0.05) higher on the heavily grazed prairie dog town, even though afternoon soil temperatures at the 15-cm depth averaged 2.7°C higher.

Did You Know?

fire on the prairie

Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.