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Faculty Mentor

Lan Xu, Jack L. Butler

Abstract

Characterizing the contributions of the seed bank and vegetative propagules will enhance our understanding of community resiliency associated with prairie dog disturbances. Our objective was to determine the effects of ecological condition (EC) and distance from burrows on the soil seed bank and vegetative propagules. Based on species composition of the extant vegetation, two prairie dog colonies were selected on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in western South Dakota. Within each colony, two prairie dog burrows were randomly selected at each of three sample points located about 150m apart. Two soil cores were taken at 0.5m, 1.0m, and 1.5m distances from the center of each burrow. Cores used to evaluate the seed bank were sifted and spread within standard seed flats, while cores used to determine vegetative propagules were placed intact into plastic pots. Both were maintained in a greenhouse for daily monitoring. A total 450 seedlings representing 16 species emerged from the low EC seed flats while 550 seedlings comprising 24 species emerged from the high EC seed flats. Sixty-two percent of the low EC and 67% of the high EC species emerged from the seed flats were annuals. On the low EC colony, 43 shoots generated from vegetative propagules representing 7 species, two of which were also found in the seed flats. On the high EC colony, 431 shoots sprouted from vegetative propagules representing 5 species, 3 of which were not present in the seed flats. Fourteen percent of the low EC and 80% of the high EC species emerged as vegetative propagules were perennial native grasses. Distance from burrows had no impact on species richness within each EC. Both colonies demonstrated considerable revegetation potential but differed with respect to relative contributions from the soil seed bank and vegetative propagules.

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