Simulation of disturbances and recovery in shortgrass steppe plant communities

TitleSimulation of disturbances and recovery in shortgrass steppe plant communities
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsPeters DC, Lauenroth W.K.
Series EditorLaurenroth W.K, Burke I.C.
Book TitleEcology of the Shortgrass Steepe: A long-term perspective
PublisherOxford Press
CityNew York
ARIS Log Number231611
Keywordsgap dynamics, recovery, shorgrass plant community
AbstractThe objective of this chapter was to evaluate the importance of gap dynamics concepts of succession for understanding shortgrass plant community recovery following disturbances. A gap dynamics approach focuses on individual plants, and the interactions between disturbance characteristics and plant life history traits in explaining successional patterns. We developed a gap dynamics model for shortgrass steppe plant communities (STEPPE) based upon the conceptual and modeling framework provided by forest models, modifying it to represent Great Plains grasslands. We used STEPPE in several capacities: (1) to synthesize and integrate existing knowledge to improve our understanding of recovery processes following disturbance; (2) to identify key processes limiting recovery; and (3) to predict long- term recovery dynamics for different climate and disturbance characteristics, in particular soil texture and disturbance size. Our analyses show that seed dispersal is a key process limiting recovery of the dominant species, blue grama, across a range of disturbance sizes. Our simulation results also indicate the importance of soil properties, especially silt content, to recovery rates of blue grama, and the greater importance of seedling establishment compared to seedling growth; however these hypotheses have yet to be tested in the field.