"If you build it will they come?", the importance of the evolutionary disturbance regime in managing a native tallgrass prairie

EPA Grant Number: F5F61416
Title: "If you build it will they come?", the importance of the evolutionary disturbance regime in managing a native tallgrass prairie
Investigators: McGlinn, Daniel J.
Institution: Oklahoma State University
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: August 1, 2005 through September 1, 2009
Project Amount: $105,378
RFA: GRO Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


Researchers have theorized that management techniques that recreate the evolutionary patterns of fire disturbance and grazing in the Great Plains will increase the heterogeneity of the landscape and therefore increase the diversity of plants that are indigenous to this area. Many management decisions in restoration ecology operate under this general assumption; however, this assumption has rarely if ever been satisfactorily evaluated. I plan to test this hypothesis at the Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve (TGPP) in northeastern Oklahoma.

The objective of this proposed research is to judge to what extent the management regime of randomized burning and free bison grazing is promoting native diversity and decreasing exotic diversity and abundance. More specifically I will address the how plant diversity and plant functional type composition is effected by varying lengths of time since last burned and differences in cattle and bison grazing.


I will use existing data from the past ten years collected at twenty 10 by 10 meter quadrats plus additional data I will be collecting using transects.

Expected Results:

The results of this study should indicate what environmental controls are most important in determining both fine and broad scale plant diversity across the preserve, as well how diversity has changed through time. This study will provide a critical evaluation of the importance of management for natural disturbance regimes and also provide a contemporary reference site for other projects seeking to restore native tallgrass prairies.

Supplemental Keywords:

Restoration ecology, species diversity, plant functional types, disturbance regime, species pool, species-area relationship, species-time relationship, bison, cattle, grazing, tallgrass prairie,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Habitat, Environmental Monitoring, biodiversity, land use effects, restoration ecology, habitat loss, habitat disturbance, community genetic diversity, ecological consequences, prairie tallgrass

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • Final