Regional productivities of plant species in the Great Plains of the United States

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

PLANT ECOLOGY, KLUWER ACADEMIC PUBL, Volume 134, Number 2, SPUIBOULEVARD 50, PO BOX 17, 3300 AA DORDRECHT, NETHERLANDS, p.173-195 (1998)

Keywords:

functional types, Grasslands, precipitation, soil texture, temperature

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 United States with respect to three environmental factors: temperature, precipitation and soil texture. Productivity of plant species was obtained from Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) range site descriptions. We interpolated climate data from 296 weather stations throughout the region and used soil texture data from NRCS State Soil Geographic (STATSGO) databases. We performed regression analyses to derive models of the relative and absolute production of each species in terms of mean annual temperature (MAT), mean annual precipitation (MAP), and percentage SAND, SILT and CLAY. MAT was the most important factor for 55% of species analyzed; MAP was most explanatory for 40% of the species, and a soil texture variable was most important for only one species. Production of C-3 species tended to be negatively related to MAT, MAP and positively related to CLAY. Production of C-4 shortgrasses, in general, was positively related to MAT and negatively related to MAP and SAND, whereas C-4 tallgrass productivity tended to be positively associated with MAP and SAND, and was highest at intermediate values of MAT. Our results indicate the extent to which functional types can be used to represent individual species. The regression equations derived in this analysis can be important inclusions in models that assess the effects of climate change on plant communities throughout the region.