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1 October 2017 Vegetation Recovers Slowly on a Deeply Disturbed Sand Prairie
Jon K. Piper
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Sand prairies experience relatively high rates of small scale disturbance, feature a high complement of annual plant species, and are fairly dynamic in terms of year-to-year microscale species composition. In summer 2011, a natural gas pipeline was installed across Sand Prairie Natural History Reservation 19 km west of North Newton, KS. The resulting excavation left a scar 560 m long and 24 m wide devoid of aboveground vegetation. From August 2012 to 2016, I monitored vegetation composition in 60 0.75 x 0.75 m2 quadrats along two parallel transect lines, one line along the center of the excavated area and the other placed 20 m away in prairie unaffected by construction vehicles. Quadrat species richness was higher in the undisturbed area in the first year, but higher in the pipeline site in the fifth year. There were no consistent site differences in species evenness. Across years, annuals averaged 73.60% of species (including three introduced species) at the pipeline site vs. 45.42% of species within the undisturbed area. Coverage by annuals and perennials differed similarly between sites: 105.55 vs. 52.82% annuals and 28.18 vs. 83.70% perennials at the pipeline and undisturbed sites, respectively. Bray-Curtis Similarity ranged from 35.7 to 56.8% across years, but was not trending upward with time. Both Floristic Quality Index and modified FQI were consistently higher for the reference site than for the pipeline area. It is too early to project the time frame for the pipeline area to recover a species composition indistinguishable from an undisturbed site, but clearly a period of many years will be required.

Jon K. Piper "Vegetation Recovers Slowly on a Deeply Disturbed Sand Prairie," Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 120(3–4), 203-213, (1 October 2017).
Published: 1 October 2017

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