Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2016


Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2016


Copyright © 2016 Heaven Hulshizer


A defining moment in American history involved the movement of immigrants across the land looking for space to make a living on and manifest destiny. The Great Plains provided more than enough of this space, and the tallgrass plains making up the eastern part of Nebraska was no exception to this, providing good climate and soils to accommodate bountiful crops. Looking at them now, the loss of tallgrass prairie has been immense. Restoration efforts for the tallgrass prairie have increased, yet it is still a conservation effort needing more analysis and understanding. Evaluation criteria for restored prairies is an important part of this dimension. While above ground assessments make up most of these evaluations, below ground assessments are lacking. To find if below ground diversity measurements can be used as an evaluative measure of prairie restoration success, the nematode family criconematidae was used as an indicator species and compared with four prairies of differing attributes demonstrating restorative quality. Lack of information lowered these qualities to age of prairie, plant diversity, and differences between remnant and restored plots. Using PCR with DNA barcoding, positive correlations were made between the age of prairie and criconematidae nematode diversity, as well as differences found between remnant and restored prairie plots. Comparisons between plant diversity were not significant. While this gives a start to our question, broader research is needed on this topic in order to come to more concrete conclusions to the use of criconematidae nematodes as a bio-indicator of restoration success.