Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Biology and Microbiology


Over the last 150 years the tallgrass prairie ecosystem has been almost completely decimated on a continental scale. Although South Dakota retains a relatively large amount (~ 15%) of this diverse plant and animal community, sodbusting is still occurring and poses the most serious threat to biodiversity. Remnant tracts of tallgrass prairie in South Dakota remain in areas of untillable topography, generally poor soils, or surrounding wetlands. On my study sites (n=63), grazing was the dominant (>80%) land-use on privately owned tracts of tallgrass prairie, while public lands were nearly all (96%) idle. Both publicly and privately owned study sites showed substantial losses to floristic quality when compared to well-managed tallgrass prairie relicts. A total of 277 plant species were listed during a survey of upland prairie habitat, 16% of which were introduced. Only two species, smooth brome and Kentucky bluegrass, were found on all 63 study sites. A floristic quality index (FQI) was derived at each study site and reflected the average floristic health of reference, public, and private study sites as excellent (57), fair (44), and poor (39), respectively. Height-density and effective leaf height measurements indicated that reference and public study sites provided adequate(> l .5dm) habitat to support many desirable wildlife species; however, mean height-density of standing vegetation on privately owned tracts was below recommended levels. Litter depth results showed a polarity of excessive accumulation (X=43mm) on public lands and intensive management (X=7mm) on privately owned land.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Prairie plants -- South Dakota Prairie ecology -- South Dakota



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University