LTER VIII (2020-2026)

LTER VIII is led by Jesse Nippert (PI) with Co-PI support from Sara Baer, Keith Gido, Melinda Smith and Lydia Zeglin in advisory roles.

The conceptual framework of Konza LTER VIII builds on long-term studies, reflects the increasing complexity of research questions developed over the history of this program, and explicitly recognizes that tallgrass prairie pattern and process results from human alteration of ecological drivers at local (e.g., land use and management), regional (e.g., nutrient inputs) and global (e.g., climate change) scales. This research utilizes long-term, watershed-scale manipulations of fire frequency and grazing by large ungulates, coupled with numerous plot-scale manipulations to test ecological theory and address timely questions regarding grassland responses to multiple, interacting global changes. Konza LTER VIII builds from previous work that focused on the mechanisms that underlie the sensitivity and resilience of ecosystem states in mesic grasslands. New research will utilize the array of ecosystem states that have emerged from previous landscape manipulations to refine the understanding of sensitivity, resilience, and ecosystem state change in tallgrass prairie. The need to understand the relationships between these drivers and their resulting ecological states forms the organizing basis for both new and continuing research.

Our proposed research comprises four thematic areas:

1. watershed-level study of the long-term effects of historical drivers (fire and grazing),

2. experimental manipulations of global change drivers,

3. cessation or reversal of selected drivers,

4. human intervention.

Collectively, Konza Prairie research will advance ecological theory and improve our mechanistic understanding of ecosystem state changes by manipulating key drivers to alter ecological states while employing new analytical approaches to augment the value of Konza LTER’s long-term data sets. This research will provide new information critical for understanding, managing, and conserving grasslands globally, while concurrently addressing fundamental ecological questions to explain grassland dynamics in a changing world.

For more detailed information, see our LTER VIII proposal.