Project Number: 3098-21600-001-071-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Jun 1, 2023
End Date: May 31, 2024
Research will meet the following specific objectives: 1. Quantify changes and ecosystem resilience in native grassland plant communities and soil health indicators in response to nutrient additions, disturbance, and drought conditions within the ‘Grassland Networks’ research studies sites. 2. Determine the long-term trends and variability in soil health indicators, plant community growth and processes, and biomass yield of grassland and switchgrass stands in response to restoration and management practice.
Objective 1: Grasslands have undergone precipitous declines in total area driven primarily by anthropogenic activities. As global change in grassland systems intensifies, it is imperative relevant research untangles the interaction between nutrient addition, disturbance, and extreme weather events. These three drivers of change pose significant challenges to future sustainable ecosystem functioning. The loss of proper grassland ecosystem functioning threatens the ecosystem services we rely on for food and forage production. Three long-term research studies from the ‘Grassland Networks’ at ARS-GSWRL will be used to better our understandings of the three drivers: Nutrient Network (NutNet; established in 2007), Disturbance and Resources Across Global Grasslands Network (DRAGnet; established in 2021), and Drought Network (DroughtNet; established in 2023). Each of the three research sites are located within the same native C4 grassland in Temple, Texas. Texas State University collaborators, undergraduates, and graduate student(s) will assist with sampling and analyses using the protocols that have been previously established to ensure continuity of data quality. Objective 2: The Long-Term Biomass Experiment (LTBE) field site was established in 2010 at ARS-GSWRL in Temple, Texas, and will be used to determine the long-term trends and variability in soil health indicators, plant community growth and processes, and biomass yield. Common grassland restoration and management practices (e.g., burning, mowing, herbicides, and reseeding) found in the Texas Blackland Prairies will be implemented to the already established switchgrass and restored grassland stands at LTBE. Literature suggests that grassland management practices increase above-ground biomass and help prevent invasion of exotic species. In addition, half of the switchgrass stands will be converted to native grasslands. Texas State University collaborators, undergraduates, and graduate student(s) will assist with project development, sampling, and analyses.