Regional productivities of plant species in the Great Plains of the United States

TitleRegional productivities of plant species in the Great Plains of the United States
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsEpstein H, Lauenroth W.K, Burke IC, Coffin D.P.
JournalPlant Ecology
Date PublishedFebruary 1, 1998
ARIS Log Number128557
AbstractFew studies have analyzed the production of plant species at regional scales in grassland ecosystems, due in part to limited availability of data at large spatial scales. We used a dataset of rangeland surveys to examine the productivities of 22 plant species throughout the Great Plains of the U.S. with respect to three environmental factors: temperature, precipitation, and soil texture. Productivity and soil texture were obtained from NRCS range site descriptions and STATSGO databases. Climate data were obtained from 296 weather stations located throughout the region. Mean annual temperature was the most important explanatory variable for 55% of species analyzed. Mean annual precipitation was most explanatory for 40% of the species. Productivity of C3 species was negatively related to climate and positively related to clay content. Production of C4 shortgrasses was positively related to temperature and negatively related to precipitation and sand content. By contrast, production of C4 tallgrasses was positively related to precipitation and sand and highest at intermediate values of temperature. The regression equations developed from these analyses are important inclusions in models that assess effects of climate change on plant communities throughout the region.