Grassland vegetation is the most widespread vegetation type occurring in the Southern Plains Network (SOPN) and fire is one of the most influential disturbance processes in this ecosystem. Exotic species invasions, expanding row-crop agriculture, overgrazing, mineral exploration and establishment of woodlots and shelterbelts have all contributed to grassland degradation and loss of genetic diversity. Fire can influence vegetative succession and distribution, wildlife habitat, soil parameters, hydrology, water quality and air quality. Monitoring grassland vegetation communities and fire effects will help SOPN park managers better understand the dynamic nature of these ecosystems and the processes that control them. Monitoring will also provide an early warning of abnormal conditions, which will allow managers to make effective decisions for mitigation.
SOPN has teamed with the Southern Plains Fire Group to carry out collaborative monitoring of permanent grassland transects in all SOPN parks. Each 50 meter transect is comprised of five nested 2x1 meter plots. During a transect visit, the field crew measures 1) species composition and cover in each plot, 2) surface type and cover in each plot, 3) shrub density within 10 meters of the transect center-point, 4) point-line intercept cover along the transect, and 5) primary production(biomass). Status and trends in species composition and community structure are examined in relation to environmental variables (ie., long-term management actions, climate and atmospheric deposition).
Network Park Units Where Monitoring Occurs
Grassland vegetation and fire effects monitoring is done at all parks within the Southern Plains Network.