Analyzing impacts of wallows on prairie plant communities
Wagner, Nicole A., 1987--
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Bison play a key role in maintaining prairies by creating natural disturbances through trampling, grazing and wallowing that shape plant communities. Wallowing can aid prairies, through seed dispersal and soil enrichment, increasing plant species diversity. This research will be carried out at Nachusa Grasslands, where plants in and around active and abandoned wallows will be surveyed to determine (1) How wallowing changes communities and soil conditions compared to surrounding areas, and (2) if plant and soil conditions return to their previous states after wallows are abandoned. I will survey 1 m² plots within wallows, along wallow edges, and in surrounding prairie to identify plants and quantify species richness, percent cover, non-native species abundance and Shannon diversity. I will measure soil compaction, temperature, pH, and moisture in each plot. I hypothesize that within wallowed sites there will be more bare ground and increased graminoid abundance because these plants are more dependent on small scale disturbances compared to adjacent prairie. Non-native species are predicted to be more abundant within wallows; if so, land managers may need to target weed control strategies here.