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Monday, February 6 • 3:20pm - 3:40pm
Technical Session. Temporal Dynamics of Large Grazer Space Use in an Experimental Heterogeneous Landscape

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AUTHORS: Edward J. Raynor, Division of Biology, Kansas State University; Anthony Joern, Division of Biology, Kansas State University; Adam Skibbe,Geographical and Sustainability Sciences, University of Iowa; Mark Sowers, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University; John M. Briggs, Division of Biology, Kansas State University; Angela N. Laws, Department of Biology, University of Houston; Douglas Goodin, Department of Geography, Kansas State University

ABSTRACT: With climate change forecasts for more frequent and extensive drought in the future, a more complete understanding of the mechanisms that determine large grazer distribution under varying climatic conditions are integral to ecosystem management. In 2012, the Central US experienced the fourth largest drought in a century, with a regional-scale 40 % reduction in growing season precipitation. Using an experimental setting with contrasting fire treatments, we describe the effects of variable burn history in years of variable resource availability on large grazer space use at Konza Prairie Biological Station. We investigated the differential use of watersheds by plains bison (Bison bison bison) at different stages of the seasonal cycle across 7 years in a mesic tallgrass prairie landscape managed with prescribed spring fire. Aided by GPS telemetry, we investigated the movement patterns of bison as they moved among experimental watersheds managed with four prescribed burn treatments (1-, 2-, 4-, and 20-year burn intervals). At foraging sites, we found that forage availability increased with the progression of the growing season but to a lesser extent in burned watersheds than watersheds not-burned that spring. At the landscape-scale, bison more strongly favored recently-burned watersheds with watersheds burned for the first time in two or four years consistently showing higher use relative to annually-burned watersheds. In particular, watersheds burned for the first time in four years were avoided to a significantly lesser extent than other burned watersheds during the dormant season and this management-type also maintained significant coupling between bison and post-fire regrowth across the post-drought growing season months of 2013, whereas watersheds on more frequent fire-return intervals significantly attracted bison in only the first month post-fire. Hence burn frequency played a role in maintaining the coupling of grazer and post-fire regrowth, the fire-grazer interaction, in response to drought-induced reduction of fuel loads. 

Monday February 6, 2017 3:20pm - 3:40pm CST
Grand Ballroom D

Attendees (6)