While weather can contribute significantly to grasshopper population dynamics in North American grasslands, local environmental conditions resulting from land use practices may be equally important. In this study, significant differences in grasshopper density were detected among adjacent watersheds from Kansas Flint Hills tallgrass prairie that differed in fire frequency and especially bison grazing treatments. Grasshopper densities were ≈2.5 times greater in grazed watersheds compared with ungrazed ones. Grasshopper densities also varied somewhat in response to fire frequency, mostly in species-specific ways. No treatment interactions on overall grasshopper density were detected. The effects of fire frequency and bison grazing were implemented in part through their combined effect on the structural heterogeneity of vegetation, and other habitat characteristics. Individual grasshopper species responded uniquely to combinations of fire frequency and bison grazing. Grazing resulted in significant increases in density for seven of the nine most abundant species; fire frequency affected two species; and one species did not respond to either fire or grazing. Understanding effects of habitat on grasshopper densities provides opportunities to manage these populations for economic or conservation needs.
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