Does Grazing Have an Effect on Soil Chemistry of Burned Restored Prairies?
Prairies are one of the Earth’s most endangered ecosystems. Understanding how soil nutrients are effected by different management practices in remnant prairies is important when determining best management and restoration practices. Learning about these ecosystems in their native state helps us understand how to restore them in ways that achieve the greatest biodiversity and return the prairie as close to a natural state as possible. By better understanding the underground processes of prairies current prairie management strategies can be improved or changed. Konza Prairie LTER data was used to determine whether management practices had an effect on the soil nutrients carbon and nitrogen as well as the C/N ratio. Time was also looked at as a factor to see if time in addition to or separate from management practice was affecting these particular nutrients. The management practices that were looked at were burning annually, burning annually with grazers allowed access, burning every four years, and burning every four years with grazers allowed access. Eleven years’ worth of data was used to determine the effects of type of management over time. It was hypothesized that the total soil carbon would be affected by fire and grazing because annual burning wouldn’t allow sufficient amounts carbon to build up prior to the next fire and an annual burning and grazing management practice would also keep the soil carbon reduced. There wouldn’t be sufficient time for carbon to build up in the soil and any carbon ingested by grazers would stay in the animal. Burns that occur every four years either with or without the inclusion of grazers would allow for carbon to accumulate in the soil. Nitrogen was not expected to show a significant difference because nitrogen is added to the soil in all treatments from either or both nitrogen fixing plants and bison excrement. C/N ratio was thought to be affected as the ratio to carbon and nitrogen get closer, bacterial breakdown of detritus would be a quicker process, releasing nutrients back in to the soil more quickly. It was suspected that C/N ratio would be affected by the management types because it was thought that the total soil carbon was going to be affected and the nitrogen was not, implying a change in the ratio.
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