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SGS-LTER Disturbance intensity and above- and belowground herbivory effects on long-term recovery of shortgrass steppe on the Central Plains Experimental Range, Nunn, Colorado, USA 1977-1990

posted on 2023-11-30, 10:20 authored by William Lauenroth

This data package was produced by researchers working on the Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research (SGS-LTER) Project, administered at Colorado State University. Long-term datasets and background information (proposals, reports, photographs, etc.) on the SGS-LTER project are contained in a comprehensive project collection within the Digital Collections of Colorado ( The data table and associated metadata document, which is generated in Ecological Metadata Language, may be available through other repositories serving the ecological research community and represent components of the larger SGS-LTER project collection. Additional information and referenced materials can be found: The importance of disturbance intensity and herbivory by cattle and white grubs, or the larvae of June beetles to recovery of shortgrass steppe ecosystems in Colorado, USA were evaluated over a 14 year time period. Disturbance intensity was defined by survival of the dominant grass species (Bouteloua gracilis) after an outbreak of root feeding activity by white grubs. 16 patches of vegetation consisting of four pairs of adjacent ungrazed-grazed by cattle locations with 2 replicates that were recently affected by white grubs were selected in 1977. Disturbance intensity was determined in 1977 by the area in each patch that contained live tillers of B. gracilis. Permanent plots were lcoated both within and outside of each patch. Plant basal cover and density by species were estimated at time of peak aboveground biomass in 6 different years on each plot. Successional dynamics on patches was similar to areas affected by other types of disturbances, however, rate of recovery was faster for patches affected by grubs. Grazing by cattle was infrequently important to plant recovery, a result similar to effects of grazing on other aspects of shortgrass steppe. Disturbance intensity was important to recovery of B. gracilis since tiller survival in 1977 was linearly related to cover in each year of sampling. For ungrazed patches, initial conditions were important to recovery of B. gracilis for as many as 14 years. For grazed patches, initial conditions decreased and grazing increased in importance through time. Changes in resource quality and more uniform distribution of roots due to grazing likely resulted in more complete mortality of plants by grubs under grazed compared to ungrazed conditions. Persistance of shortgrass steppe ecosystems in spite of disturbances with different intensities are determined at least in part by characteristics of disturbances interacting with the ability ofplants to respond, and in part by the evolutionary history of the system. Although white grubs affect shortgrass communities infrequently, they have large and important effects on plant community structure through time, and represent an important class of disturbance defined by intensity.

Resources in this dataset:


Agricultural Research Service

National Science Foundation, DEB 1027319


Data contact name

Lauenroth, William

Data contact email


Colorado State University

Use limitations

URL for Access Policies Data Access Policy Data sets were provided by the Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research (SGS-LTER) Program, a partnership between Colorado State University, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and the U.S. Forest Service Pawnee National Grassland. Significant funding for these data was provided by the National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research program (NSF Grant Number DEB-1027319). The SGS-LTER project (1980-2014) was established as one of the first sites in the US LTER Network and has produce a rich legacy of digital materials including reports, proposals, images, and data packages. Data, products and other information produced from the SGS-LTER are curated as a collection within the Digital Collections of Colorado ( Materials can be accessed from the Institutional Digital Repository of Colorado State University or upon request by emailing All data are open for dissemination and re-use for any purpose, but you must attribute credit to the owner and cite use appropriately according to the LTER Data Access Policy.

Temporal Extent Start Date


Temporal Extent End Date



  • Not specified

Geographic Coverage


Geographic location - description

The Short Grass Steppe Site Encompasses A Large Portion Of The Colorado Piedmont Section Of The Western Great Plains. The Extent Is Defined As The Boundaries Of The Central Plains Experimental Range (cper). The Cper Has A Single Ownership And Landuse (livestock Grazing). The Png Is Characterized By A Mosaic Of Ownership And Land Use. Ownership Includes Federal, State Or Private And Land Use Consists Of Livestock Grazing Or Row-crops. There Are Ngo Conservation Groups That Exert Influence Over The Area, Particularly On Federal Lands.

ISO Topic Category

  • environment
  • climatologyMeteorologyAtmosphere
  • biota
  • farming
  • geoscientificInformation

Ag Data Commons Group

  • Central Plains Experimental Range
  • Long-Term Agroecosystem Research

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

agroecosystems; rangelands; sustainable agricultural intensification

OMB Bureau Code

  • 005:18 - Agricultural Research Service

OMB Program Code

  • 005:040 - National Research

ARS National Program Number

  • 215

Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public

Preferred dataset citation

Lauenroth, William (2013). SGS-LTER Disturbance intensity and above- and belowground herbivory effects on long-term recovery of shortgrass steppe on the Central Plains Experimental Range, Nunn, Colorado, USA 1977-1990. Colorado State University.