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Tallgrass Prairie Responses to Management Practices and Disturbances: A Review

Wagle, Pradeep, Gowda, Prasanna H.
Agronomy 2018 v.8 no.12
aboveground biomass, anthropogenic activities, biogeochemical cycles, burning, climatic factors, fertilizer application, grasses, grazing, growth and development, indigenous species, livestock production, microbial activity, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, plant communities, plant development, plant growth, primary productivity, soil quality, species richness, tallgrass prairies, United States
Adoption of better management practices is crucial to lessen the impact of anthropogenic disturbances on tallgrass prairie systems that contribute heavily for livestock production in several states of the United States. This article reviews the impacts of different common management practices and disturbances (e.g., fertilization, grazing, burning) and tallgrass prairie restoration on plant growth and development, plant species composition, water and nutrient cycles, and microbial activities in tallgrass prairie. Although nitrogen (N) fertilization increases aboveground productivity of prairie systems, several factors greatly influence the range of stimulation across sites. For example, response to N fertilization was more evident on frequently or annually burnt sites (N limiting) than infrequently burnt and unburnt sites (light limiting). Frequent burning increased density of C<inf>4</inf> grasses and decreased plant species richness and diversity, while plant diversity was maximized under infrequent burning and grazing. Grazing increased diversity and richness of native plant species by reducing aboveground biomass of dominant grasses and increasing light availability for other species. Restored prairies showed lower levels of species richness and soil quality compared to native remnants. Infrequent burning, regular grazing, and additional inputs can promote species richness and soil quality in restored prairies. However, this literature review indicated that all prairie systems might not show similar responses to treatments as the response might be influenced by another treatment, timing of treatments, and duration of treatments (i.e., short-term vs. long-term). Thus, it is necessary to examine the long-term responses of tallgrass prairie systems to main and interacting effects of combination of management practices under diverse plant community and climatic conditions for a holistic assessment.