Konza Prairie LTER - United States of America
Konza Prairie LTER
United States of America
The primary research site for the Konza Prairie LTER program is the Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS), a 3,487-ha native tallgrass prairie preserve and research station jointly owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. The KPBS is located in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas (39°05’ N, 96°35’ W), a grassland region of steep-slopes overlain by shallow limestone soils unsuitable for cultivation. The climate is continental, with mean annual precipitation of 835 mm yr-1, but high variability. KPBS is topographically complex (320 to 444 m asl), and soil type and depth vary with topography. Soils are silty clay loams, formed from thick colluvial and alluvial deposits ≥2 m in lowlands, while hillside and upland soils are shallow. Soils overlay alternating layers of limestone and shale, contributing to complex subsurface hydrology. Vegetation is primarily (>90%) native tallgrass prairie dominated by perennial C4 grasses, but precipitation is sufficient to support woody vegetation, making periodic drought, fire and grazing critical for maintaining grassland. Numerous sub-dominant grasses, forbs and woody species contribute to high floristic diversity (>600 plant species). The entire Kings Creek watershed, a USGS Benchmark Stream, is located on Konza. Hardwood forests occur along major stream courses. Several agricultural fields and restored prairies are located on site. Overall, the site is representative of native tallgrass prairie, with selected areas representing other contemporary land use practices (e.g., agriculture, restored grasslands, cattle and bison grazing).
General Characteristics and Status