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Comparing the Influence of Precipitation, Fire, and Topography on Plant Productivity in the Tallgrass Prairie

This Data Set allows students to use long-term data from Konza to explore the relationships between multiple characteristics of a tallgrass prairie ecosystem and the productivity of prairie plants. Specifically, students compare the interactive effects of fire frequency, topography, and inter-annual variation in precipitation on the productivity of two major plant groups (grasses and forbs). To examine these relationships, students create figures using data collected between 1984 and 1999. The plant productivity data are divided into two vegetation types, grasses and forbs (forbs are any non-woody, non-grass vascular plant); two topographical positions, uplands and lowlands; and three fire frequencies, annual, 4-year, and 20-year burns. As the students explore the relationships between the different characteristics, they will develop an understanding of how fire, topography, and precipitation influence tallgrass prairie productivity and how these factors vary over time.
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Format
Primary or BEN resource type
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords fire; fire frequency; topography; precipitation; above ground; net primary productivity; ANPP; NPP; limiting factors; long-term data; soil; Konza
Key taxa forb; grass; Poaceae
Audience
Intended End User Role
Language
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Description This Data Set can be used to teach students about multiple ecosystem characteristics that influence productivity, using the specific example of the tallgrass prairie. Because the teaching methods are student-active, students also learn how to create and interpret figures from data with multiple, interactive variables by working with raw data. Students exercise critical thinking skills, since accurately interpreting the results requires students to think critically about plant-ecosystem relationships, determine sources of variation, and predict patterns over time. At the completion of the exercise, students discuss their interpretations and submit answers to questions developed while creating the figures.
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Colorado State University, Dept. of Biology

Kansas State University, Division of Biology
Primary Author email nippert@lamar.colostate.edu

jblair@ksu.edu
Rights Copyright 2007 by Jesse Nippert, John Blair, and the Ecological Society of America.
Date Of Record Submission 2007-10-23

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