Effects of rangeland management on community dynamics of the herpetofauna of the tallgrass prairie

TitleEffects of rangeland management on community dynamics of the herpetofauna of the tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsWilgers, DJ, Horne, EA, Sandercock, BK, Volkmann, AW
Pagination378 -388
Accession NumberKNZ001079
KeywordsAmphibians, Flint Hills, Mark-recapture, POPAN, Reptiles, Species loss

The Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma are the largest remaining tracts of tallgrass prairie in North America. This area has undergone major changes in land management practices in the past 30 years. Traditional season-long cattle stocking with variable burn schedules has diversified to include intensive-early cattle stocking accompanied by annual burning. To understand how different land management practices affect the herpetofauna of a tallgrass prairie, we used mark-recapture statistics to analyze herpetofaunal community dynamics. We analyzed survey data collected over a 15-year time span (1989–2003) from a rangeland site in Cowley County, KS, USA. A modified Jolly-Seber open population model, POPAN-5, was used to estimate four community parameters: probability of species loss (φ′), probability of detection (P), probability of entry (Pent), and species richness (N). The top models included burn status as a covariate for species loss rate, while cattle stocking received moderate support as a covariate. Rates of species loss were higher during burn years (φ′  =  0.04, 95% CI: 0.02 to 0.08) than nonburn years (φ′  =  0.00, 95% CI: 0.00 to 0.01). Analysis of the impacts of different management practices was difficult due to confounding effects of changes in both burning and grazing. Declines in species richness tended to be steepest during a period of season-long stocking, but results were not statistically significant. Though our limited data set does not allow us to draw strong conclusions on the effects of land management on herpetofaunal populations, the mark-recapture models illustrated in our study should prove to be a valuable tool in future analyses of similar data.