2023 Update: soils in remnants and restorations

In July, 2023, a team from Minnesota State University, Mankato visited Team Echinacea to sample prairie soil. They are investigating how fire and management history influences physical, chemical and biological soil properties. Differences in soils may also help explain plant fitness and native bee nesting patterns. After three hot days, 263 samples were collected from 28 sites!

Back in Mankato, four undergraduate students processed the soil samples by sieving and weighing out the field collections. The preliminary results show soil bulk density is lower in remnant prairies compared to restored prairies. This makes sense in that remnant prairies have retained their organic-matter rich topsoil, infiltrated with plant roots and filled with pore spaces that develop over time in natural prairies. The soil bulk density is also lower on flat (no slope) topography, in part due to illuviation (deposition) of nutrients and organic material from nearby sloped areas.

The team hopes to continue its investigations to understand which soil properties are sensitive to different management histories and how the patchwork of fragmented prairies in the region vary in carbon, nitrogen and biological activity. These data should provide foundational information for many additional projects.

The Mankato soil team gathers around a bbPoint to discuss sampling. The team visited bbPoints in remnants and restorations over a 3 day period.
  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: : 28 study plots on private, federal and state land with different land use histories: remnant and restored grassland
  • Overlaps with: Fire x Fragmentation; Ground Nesting Bees
  • Data collected: Soil bulk density, maximum water-holding capacity, gravimetric soil moisture content, soil aggregate stability (SLAKES), total organic C, total N, inorganic N (plant available forms: ammonium and nitrate), aerobic respiration rate (proxy for microbial activity and decomposition)
  • Samples or specimens collected: Topsoil bulk density and additional soil (top 15 cm) for each bee nesting trap
  • Products: Stay tuned!


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