Konza Prairie, Long-Term Ecological Research Network Office

Data Center Description
Konza Prairie was one of the 6 original LTER sites selected by NSF in
1981 and is now in its fourth funding cycle (1996-2002). As is to be
expected in a relatively new site, LTER research goals at Konza
Prairie have been redirected and expanded several times, but long-term
studies in each of the 5 core areas have been and continue to be, a
baseline research effort that receives highest priority.

LTER I (1981-1986). A group of KSU faculty led by G. Richard Marzolf
in collaboration with Dean Bark, Lloyd C. Hulbert, Mike Johnson,
Robert Robel and John L. Zimmerman was responsible for securing
funding for LTER I, and focussing the initial research program on
comparative investigations of biotic responses to fire and climatic
variability. Long-term research sites and sampling protocols were
established during this period with an emphasis on studies of the
extremes of annually burned vs. unburned watersheds and upland
vs. lowland sites.

LTER II (1986-1990). During LTER II, Marzolf left KSU and Donald
W. Kaufman and Timothy R. Seastedt expanded LTER research efforts to
include a wider range of fire frequencies (specifically 4-yr fire
cycles) and increased exploration of ecosystem responses. Moreover, as
a result of the collaborative NASA funded FIFE (First ISLSCP Field
Experiment) (FIFE Home Page)) program from 1987-1989, LTER researchers
began to address more complex questions of scale and make use of
remotely-sensed satellite data to explore landscape-level issues.

LTER III (1991-1996). Prior to leaving KSU in 1991, Seastedt provided
the leadership that defined the research objectives for LTER III.
Leadership and administration during LTER III were provided by Alan
K. Knapp and John M. Briggs, with co-PIs David C. Hartnett and Donald
W. Kaufman serving in advisory roles. LTER III represented a
significant expansion of the Konza Prairie LTER program in terms of
both research emphasis and scientific investigators. New faculty
scientists added during LTER III included Walter K. Dodds (1991,
Aquatic Ecology), John M. Blair (1992, Soil and Ecosystem Ecology),
and Loretta C. Johnson (1995, Plant and Ecosystem Ecology). The
primary goals of LTER III were to understand how grazing influences
biotic and ecosystem processes and patterns imposed by fire frequency
over the landscape mosaic, all of which are subjected to a variable
(and possibly directional) climatic regime. The additional research
associated with large ungulate grazing and an expanded landscape
perspective led to the establishment of several challenging studies,
many of which are ongoing. These new initiatives were designed to
complement programs at other LTER sites as well as enhance efforts
within the LTER core areas.

LTER IV (1996-2002). With LTER IV, we continue to build on existing
long-term studies of fire, grazing and climatic variability with a
broadly-based research program encompassing studies from the
organismic through population, community, ecosystem and landscape
levels. Our research also has expanded to include studies of climate
change, net carbon exchange, restoration ecology and land use/land
cover change. These studies are thematically linked via an overarching
theme that explicitly includes a non-equilibrium perspective on
ecological patterns and processes in this grassland (Knapp et
al. 1998), and which addresses the major abiotic and biotic factors
influencing this ecosystem. Our central hypothesis is that fire,
grazing and climatic variability are essential and interactive factors
responsible for the structure and dynamics of tallgrass prairie. In
contrast to many other grasslands where ecological processes are
constrained by chronic limitations of a single resource (e.g., water),
organismic to ecosystem processes and dynamics in tallgrass prairie
are products of spatial and temporal variability in multiple limiting
resources (water, light, N). Variability in, and switching among,
these primary limiting resource(s) are caused by both extant and
historical fire, grazing and climatic regimes. Moreover, responses to
these factors are strongly dependent on topographic and landscape
position. As a result of this complexity, and because grazing and fire
regimes are managed in grassland systems worldwide, data from the
Konza Prairie LTER program have relevance not only for understanding
this grassland, but for broader ecological issues such as
stability-diversity questions and interactions among land-use,
biodiversity and climate change.

Website: http://www.lternet.edu/sites/knz

[Summary provided by Konza Prairie LTER.]

Data Center URL
URL: http://www.lternet.edu/sites/knz