GFE01 Ghost Fire: an experimental manipulation of fire effects on multi-trophic community dynamics in the ungrazed uplands of unburned and annually burned watersheds of Konza Prairie


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Frequent burning is a common land practice in many grasslands worldwide, and this land use strategy has large impacts on a wide variety of ecosystem functions and services. Fire in tallgrass prairie, in the absence of grazing, alters plant community composition, decreases richness, and increases plant production. Proposed mechanisms for the changes in community composition and function are that fire decreases N availability (through volatilization) and removes litter (thereby increasing light availability and decreasing soil moisture). However, few experiments explicitly test these mechanisms, and those that do monitor short-term effects. Yet, the strength of these mechanisms likely differ over longer time scales, as other ecosystem attributes (e.g., plant community composition) change through time. Ghost Fire aims to determine the mechanisms behind community and ecosystem differences between annually burned grassland and 20-year burned grassland (hereafter called unburned) by experimentally manipulating N availability and litter. We impose litter and N conditions found in unburned grassland onto annually burned grassland, and litter and N conditions typically found in annually burned grassland onto unburned grassland. Importantly, Ghost Fire monitors both below- and above-ground plant community and ecosystem dynamics as well other dimensions of the ecosystem including microbial and mycorrhizal communities and insect community composition and biomass.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014 to Friday, December 30, 2016

Publication Date: 

Thursday, July 13, 2017