patch-burn grazing

PBG01 Plant species composition in the Patch Burning-grazing Experiment at Konza Prairie


‘PBG’ datasets are associated with a long-term, large-scale study that is addressing the effects of fire-grazing interactions in the context of a Patch-Burn Grazing management system designed to promote grassland heterogeneity. Effects of patch-burn grazing management on plant and animal diversity and the nature and variety of wildlife habitat are being assessed in two replicate management units, each consisting of three pastures (watersheds) designated C03A/C03B/C03C and C3SA/C3SB/C3SC. In each patch-burn grazing unit, one watershed is burned and two that are left unburned in a given year. The burning treatments are rotated annually so that each pasture is burned every third year. Each patch-burn grazing unit is paired with an annually-burned pasture for comparison with traditional grazing systems (C01A and C1SB). All grazing units are stocked with cow/calf pairs from approximately 1 May until 1 Oct at a stocking density equal to 3.2 ha per cow/calf. To examine the impact of patch burning and grazing in all 8 units, we monitor changes in plant species composition, residual biomass, grassland bird populations, insect populations, small mammal populations, soil nutrients, and stream water quality1(1C3SA/C3SB/C3SC unit only). The KSU Department of Animal Science monitors cattle performance, including weight gain and body condition to assess the economic feasibility of using patch-burn management on a widespread basis.

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To determine long-term changes in canopy cover, frequency, richness, and diversity in pastures that are rotational burned and seasonally grazed by cows.


Location of Sampling Stations: Plant composition is determined on upland topographic locations.

Sampling History: Collection of plant composition data began in 2008.

Frequency of Sampling: Plots are sampled twice each year (late-May to Mid-June for the spring census, and August to early-September for the summer census). Generally, cool-season species are sampled in the spring census whereas warm-season species are sampled in the summer census when they are more developed.

Variables Measured: Estimated canopy cover of all vascular plant species in each plot.

Methods: In each pasture, four 50-m long transects (A, B, C, and D) were established in similar soil types and elevation. Five evenly spaced, permanently marked plots are located in each transect (n= 20 plots for each pasture). A surveyor's pin with a 1.78 m long chain is placed in the conduit marking each plot. Canopy cover of all vascular plant species in a 10-m2 circular area surrounding each conduit are estimated using a modified Daubenmire cover scale (Bailey and Poulton, 1968. Ecology 49:1-13). Cover categories are:

























Form of Data Output: Raw data contains the cover class value for each species detected in the plot. A value of 1 to 7 indicates the estimated cover class value for the species.

For species that are sampled on both census dates, the highest cover class of each plot is used for analyses. Percentage cover for each species is computed by averaging the mid-points of the cover classes for the 20 plots. The presence or absence of a species in the 20 plots can be used to estimate frequency of occurrence.

This data set includes canopy cover of all plant species is recorded in 20 circular 10 m2 plots in watersheds of the patch-burn grazing experiment. Plots are arranged in 4 transects (A-D) of 5 plots each. Pre-treatment data was collected in 2008 from all units except C1SB(a, b, c, d), C03A(c, d) and C03C(a, b). Data was collected all units in 2009. Cattle grazing started in 2010 in C03A/C03B/C03C and C01A and in 2011 in C3SA/C3SB/C3SC and C1SB.

For the list of Species codes used, please check (updated on Jan. 2024)  species list (PDF), or species list in Excel version

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For additional methods information see:

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