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Konza Prairie Biological Station

Current Research

Ecological research is the central activity of the Konza Prairie. The site was established to provide a natural laboratory for the study of ecological patterns and processes in native tallgrass prairie ecosystems, and a protected field site for basic biological research. Kansas State University researchers and visiting scientists conduct field research on a wide spectrum of taxa and at levels of organization from the individual organism to landscape and global-scale processes.

The three key natural processes that regulate and sustain the tallgrass prairie are periodic fire, ungulate grazing, and a variable continental climate. Thus, these processes are the focus of much of the long-term research. Replicated watershed-level experimental manipulations including fire and grazing are employed to study these ecological processes, with the effects of climate being investigated via measurements over long time scales and small-scale manipulations of precipitation patterns. Konza Prairie is divided into approximately 50 watershed units (average size = 66 ha), each subjected to a specific combination of prescribed burning regime (burned at 1, 2, 3, 4, or 20 year intervals, and burned in February - April, July, or November) and grazing treatment (grazed by bison, cattle, or ungrazed). The long-term prescribed burning treatments were initiated in 1972 and the bison grazing treatments were initiated in 1987. The herd of approximately 275 bison is managed to reflect a natural age structure and provides a year-long grazing regime resulting in approximately 25% removal of annual net primary productivity, a grazing intensity typical of natural sub-humid tall grasslands. The various combinations of bison, cattle, and ungrazed units allow large-scale replicated studies of the role of native grazers, comparison of effects of native and domestic ungulates, and effects of varying fire and grazing management regimes on tallgrass prairie ecosystems.

Total Research Dollars associated with Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS) = ~ $28 million

Research Dollars directly generated by K-State/KPBS scientists = ~ $16 million.

Specific current grants that support research and education programs at KPBS include:

*Baer, S.G. and S. L. Collins. 2012-2017. Collaborative Research: LTREB: Does ecological heterogeneity in space and time enhance biodiversity and ecosystem function in restored prairie? National Science Foundation-Integrative Organismal Systems Program. $450,000.

  • Blair, J.M. 2012-2017.  2013-2016. (KSU portion of collaborative proposal with Southern Illinois University) $131,087.

Blair, J. M., S. G. Baer, W. Dodds, A. Joern, J. Nippert. 2014-2020. Long-Term Research on Grassland Dynamics- Assessing Mechanisms of Sensitivity and Resilience to Global Change. National Science Foundation-Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology. $6,762,000

*Brunsell. 2014-2015. Ameriflux core site funding for Konza Prairie Cluster. Department of Energy, subcontract from DE-AC02-05CH11231. $100,000. (annually renewed).

*Cheng, Weixen, 2014-2017. $850,000. Collaborative Research: Rhizosphere priming and C-N dynamics in grassland ecosystems in transition. National Science Foundation-Ecosystem Studies. 

  • Blair, J.M. 2014-2017. (KSU portion of collaborative proposal with University of Santa Cruz). $305,665.

*Devlin,D.  2013-2018. Resilience and vulnerability of beef cattle production in the Southern Great Plains under changing climate, land use and markets. USDA NIFA. $9,567,331

  • Rice, C.W. 2013-2018. (KSU portion of collaborative proposal with Oklahoma State University). $2,795,000.

Dodds, W. K., and K. Gido. 2011-2016. Collaborative Research: Scale, Consumers and Lotic Ecosystem Rates (SCALER): Centimeters to Continents. National Science Foundation-Macrosystems. $3,304,097.

Jumpponen, A., M. Herman. 2011-2016. URM: Undergraduate research and mentoring in ecological genomics. National Science Foundation-DBI. $745,566.

*Knapp, A.K., M.D. Smith, S.L. Collins and Y. Luo. 2012-2017. Grassland sensitivity to climate change at local to regional scales: assessing the role of ecosystem attributes vs. environmental context. National Science Foundation-Macrosystems Biology Program. $3,758,556.

*Knapp, A.K. & M.D. Smith. 2013-2016. Collaborative Research: Does the legacy of long-term chronic climate change alter ecosystem responses to short-term climate extremes? National Science Foundation-Ecosystem Studies Program. $948,875

  • Blair, J.M. 2013-2016. (KSU portion of collaborative proposal with Colorado State University). $299,903.

Morgan, T.J. and Snyder, B.A. 2015-2018. REU Site: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Changing Environments: Integrating from Genomes to Biomes. National Science Foundation-DBI. $312,001.

Nippert, J. 2016. MEETING: Phys-Fest: Advancing the field of Plant Physiological Ecology. National Science Foundation-IOS. $31,074.00

*Rudgers, J.L and S. Collins. 2015-2019. Collaborative Research: Parsing the effects of host specificity and geography on plant-fungal symbioses under climate change. National Science Foundation-DEB. $1,160,758

  • Jumpponen, A. 2015-2019. (KSU portion of collaborative proposal with University of New Mexico). $244,210.

*Sala, OE and D. Wall. 2015-2018. Water Availability Controls on Above-Belowground Productivity Partitioning: Herbivory versus Plant Response. National Science Foundation-Ecosystems. $718,935.

Sandercock, B.K., and B.H.F. Verheijen. 2015-2016. Dissertation Research: Effects of habitat heterogeneity on songbird fecundity in an experimental landscape.  National Science Foundation-DEB. $19,407.

Snyder, B.A and Morgan, T.J. 2012-2016. Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site: Undergraduate Research in the Ecology and Evolution of Changing Environments: Mechanisms to Responses. National Science Foundation-DBI. $287,622.

*Vaughn, Caryn. 2015-2018. Collaborative Research: Shifting hotspots: how do consumer aggregations interact to influence resource heterogeneity and fluxes in streams?  National Science Foundation-DEB. $767,236.

  • Gido, K.B.  2015 – 2018. (KSU portion of a collaborative proposal with University of Oklahoma). $282,080.

Zeglin, L. 2014-2015.  Microbial mechanisms of drought tolerance and the implications for grassland soil carbon storage.  Kansas NSF EPSCoR First Grant. $117,948.


* = Non K-State Investigator