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Konza Prairie Long Term Ecological Research Site

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Konza Prairie LTER VI: Grassland Dynamics and Long-Term Trajectories of Change  (Kansas State University)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Konza Prairie LTER research program centers on one of the most productive grasslands in North America – the tallgrass prairie. Since its inception in 1980, the program has focused on fire, grazing and climatic variability -- three interactive drivers that affect ecological patterns and processes in grasslands worldwide. The research has encompassed studies across multiple ecological levels (organism, population, community and ecosystem), spatial scales (plot-level, watershed, regional landscape) and temporal scales (days to decades). In addition to abiotic drivers such as fire, the studies have addressed the numerous biotic interactions that shape grasslands, including competition, mutualism and predation.

Today the Konza Prairie LTER is building on a legacy of its long-term studies to address the influence of global change phenomena--changes in land-use and land cover, climate and hydrologic change, nutrient enrichment and biological invasions. The program is helping to advance ecology by synthesizing and integrating data from short- and long-term studies.

The focal site for the Konza Prairie LTER program is the Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS), a 3,487-hectare native tallgrass prairie preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University (KSU). KPBS is located in the Flint Hills region of northeastern Kansas. KPBS is divided into more than 60 watersheds that incorporate different fire frequencies and the presence or absence of large ungulate grazers (bison or cattle) in a long-term experimental setting.

Education & Outreach

The Konza LTER Program includes educational opportunities for students at the K-12 (Schoolyard LTER), undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as teacher training and outreach activities for the public. The Konza Prairie site is used by graduate students from many institutions around the U.S., and from other countries. The LTER program also offers research experiences for a large number of undergraduate students through the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, by individual REU supplements to the Konza LTER project and through a site-based REU program in Ecology, Evolution and Genomics of Grassland Organisms. The Konza LTER program has also provided experiences for minority students through the Strategies for Ecology Education Development and Sustainability (SEEDS) program of the Ecological Society of America. Results from Konza studies are used in undergraduate and graduate ecology texts, as well as extension and management related outlets.

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Images (1 of )

  • portrait of bison
  • Konza prairie photo, bison grazing
The American Bison is a resident of the Konza Prairie.
Grazing on the plains
Konza Prairie LTER