Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Maribeth Latvis


biodiversity, DNA barcoding, Great Plains, phylogenetic diversity, prairie


Due to heavy threats to remaining global floral and faunal diversity, it is imperative we can identify species and quantify ecosystem health to find best practices for land management and conservation. The tallgrass prairies of the Northern Great Plains are one example of a heavily imperiled ecosystem. The tallgrass prairies have been reduced to less one percent of their historical extent and are facing continued loss. Genetic approaches and evolutionary theory offer insights for identifying species and assessing how biodiversity metrics may correlate with ecosystem processes. My two projects aim to address two facets imperative to conservation in the tallgrass prairie plant communities of the Prairie Coteau, a region defined by its relatively higher elevation to surrounding: 1) identification of regional flora using DNA barcodes and 2) incorporating evolutionary history (phylogenetic diversity, PD) into biodiversity assessments of plant communities. I assessed high throughput sequencing methods for DNA barcoding using four DNA regions and evaluated their success in identifying species occurring at Oak Lake Field Station at South Dakota State University. I found moderate success for species level identification and high success rates for genus and family level identifications. Including multiple loci resulted in higher success than one-locus barcodes. Phylogenetic diversity was compared to species richness by taking floristic surveys of 21 sites across the Prairie Coteau. PD only weakly correlated with species richness. Many of the sites sampled experienced lower PD than expected. My results indicate 1) DNA barcoding has potential to act as an extension service for regional plant identification, and 2) increasing species richness is not sufficient when aiming to maximize PD.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Biodiversity -- Great Plains.
Biodiversity conservation -- Great Plains.
Ecosystem management -- Great Plains.
Genetic markers.
Prairie ecology -- Great Plains.
Grassland conservation -- Great Plains.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright