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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Regional Productivities of Plant Species in the Great Plains of the United States

Authors
item Epstein, H. - COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
item Lauenroth, W. - COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
item Burke, I. - COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
item Peters, Debra

Submitted to: Journal Of Plant Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 1998
Publication Date: February 1, 1998
Citation: EPSTEIN, H.E., LAUENROTH, W.K., BURKE, I.C., PETERS, D.C. REGIONAL PRODUCTIVITIES OF PLANT SPECIES IN THE GREAT PLAINS OF THE UNITED STATES. JOURNAL OF PLANT ECOLOGY. 1998. V. 134(2). P. 173-195.

Interpretive Summary: We used maps of temperature, precipitation, and soil texture from the Great Plains region to determine the factors most responsible for patterns in plant productivity. 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. A total of 22 species were examined separately and grouped functionally. We found that annual temperature was the most important explanatory variable for 55% of species analyzed. Mean annual precipitation was most important for 40% of the species. Productivity of cool season species was negatively related to climate and positively related to clay content. Production of warm season shortgrasses was positively related to temperature and negatively related to precipitation and sand content. By contrast, production of warm season tallgrasses was positively related to precipitation and sand, and highest at intermediate values of temperature. The regression equations developed from these analyses are important additions to models that assess effects of climate change on plant communities throughout the region.

Technical Abstract: Few 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.

Last Modified: 12/26/2014