Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 1999


Published in Great Plains Research 9 (Fall 1999. Copyright © 1999 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


This book summarizes the wealth of new information on tallgrass prairie ecology gleaned from over fifteen years of intensive study of the Konza Prairie Research Natural Area in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas. Because the Flint Hills' steep topography and shallow soils made the region unsuitable for plowing, the area contains the largest tracts of native tallgrass prairie anywhere. The 3,427 hectare Konza site has been the focus of research since 1972 and funded since 1981 by the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. LTER also funds research at twenty other sites representing all major North American and Antarctic biomes, ranging from deserts to coastal ecosystems. The general goal of LTER is to understand the controls over such key ecological processes as productivity, species dynamics, and nutrient cycling, the long-term dynamics of which cannot be deciphered from the typical one to three year studies undertaken by ecologists. One of only two tallgrass prairie sites in the LTER network, Konza is the only one in which the major goal of researchers is to understand the effects of climate, fire, and grazing on tallgrass prairie ecology. What makes Konza unique is that research treatments are implemented on large, watershed-level areas, permitting the study of whole ecosystem and landscape responses to grazing and fire. An impressive amount of effort has gone into scrutinizing this benchmark tallgrass prairie site; Grassland Dynamics offers a synthesis of studies representing the state of knowledge about prairie ecology.