Water Potential Data From Pinyon-Juniper Forest at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico


This dataset consists of profiles of soil water potential measured via in situ thermocouple psychrometers located within a rainfall manipulation experiment in a piñon-juniper woodland. The sensors are centrally located within 40 m x 40 m water addition, water removal, infrastructure control, and ambient control plots. The profiles are installed under each of ten target piñon and juniper trees (five of each species) which were also used for other physiological measurements, as well as at five intercanopy areas. The raw sensor output (in μV) has been temperature-corrected and individual calibration equations applied.

Background: This sensor array is part of a larger experiment investigating the mechanisms of drought-related mortality in the piñon-juniper woodland. Briefly, one hypothesis is that, during periods of extended, very-negative, soil water potential (“drought”) trees experience xylem tensions greater than their threshold for cavitation, lose their hydraulic connection to the soil, dessicate and die. A second hypothesis is that in order to avoid this hydraulic failure, trees restrict water loss via reduction in stomatal conductance which also limits the diffusion of CO2 for photosynthesis, and eventually may starve to death depending on the drought duration. 

The goal of the project is to apply drought stress on an area significantly larger than the scale of individual trees to determine whether hydraulic failure or carbon starvation is a more likely mechanism for mortality under drought conditions. The cover control treatment replicates the microenvironment created under the plastic rainfall removal troughs (slightly elevated soil and air temperatures and relative humidity) without removing ambient precipitation. The water addition treatment is intended to simulate 150% of the 30-yr average rainfall via n = 6 19-mm super-canopy applications during the growing season (April-October). More details on the experiment can be found in Pangle et al. 2012 Ecosphere 3(4) 28 ( These three treatments, in addition to an ambient control with no infrastructure, are applied to three replicated blocks, one on relatively level terrain, one on a southeast-facing slope, and one on a north-facing slope. The soil psychrometers were installed in the southeast-facing block only, to measure the effectiveness of the treatments on plant-available soil moisture.

For the purposes of comparing soil water potential under various cover types (piñon, juniper, intercanopy), it should be noted that significant tree mortality has occurred on Plot 10. As described below, on 5 August 2008 the site was struck by lightening and many of the soil psychrometers were rendered inoperable. At approximately the same time, four of the five target piñon trees in the southeast-facing drought plot (Plot 10) started browning and it was discovered that they had bark beetle (Ips confusus) galleries and were infected with Ophiostoma fungi. By October 2008 those trees (T1, T2, T4, and T5) had dropped all their needles. Therefore the psychrometers buried under them were no longer located “under trees” after that time. By June 2009 the remaining target piñon (T3) died. By March 2010, one of the target juniper trees (T10) had died. At the time of this writing (April 2011) it is anticipated that more of the juniper trees on P10 will die during this year. 

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Methods:  Within Plots 9-12 of the larger PJ rainfall manipulation experiment, thermocouple psychrometers (Wescor Inc., Logan, UT, USA) were installed. Soil psychrometers profiles were placed under each of the initial ten target trees in each plot, and at the same five intercanopy areas that were instrumented to measure soil and air temperature and soil volumetric water at 5 cm depth. Each profile consisted of sensors at (1) 15 cm; (20) cm; and (3) as deep as could be augered and installed by hand, generally 50-100 cm depth. Sensors were calibrated with four NaCl solutions of known water potential before field deployment.

Sensors are controlled via a Campbell Scientific CR-7 datalogger (Campbell Scientific, Logan, UT, USA). The datalogger takes measurements every 3 h but soil water potential does not change that fast and the daytime measurements are generally unusable because of thermal gradients between the datalogger and the sensors, therefore the data presented here are only the 3:00 AM timepoints.

Note that on 5 August 2008 the site was struck by lightening. Many of the soil psychrometers were destroyed by ground current, with the worst damage on the drought and cover control plots where the metal support posts for the infrastructure may have helped to propagate ground current. Some of those sensors were eventually replaced but in the case of the infrastructure plots we were limited to installing new sensors between the plastic troughs because it was impossible to auger under the plastic. Therefore, while the original installation was random with regard to the pattern of plastic domes and troughs, the replacement installation was exclusively outside the plastic and the data may therefore be biased towards wetter microsites.


Instrument Name: thermocouple psychrometer with stainless steel screen

Manufacturer: Wescor, Inc, Logan, UT, USA

Model Number: PST-55

The response of stream metabolism (productivity and respiration) to variable climate patterns (El Nino and La Nina) using in-situ instrumentation in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico


In the southwestern United States two important seasons influence stream flow: snowmelt in spring and summer monsoonal rainfall events. Flow patterns exhibit peak discharge from snowmelt runoff in the spring followed by pulsed increases in stream discharge during late summer monsoons. Molles and Dahm showed the intensity of the snowmelt discharge is linked to El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions in the tropical Pacific. El Nino and La Nina climate patterns also may affect late summer monsoonal precipitation in New Mexico by intensifying the monsoon during La Nina years and weakening monsoons during El Nino years. Stage gage data show seasonal and interannual variability in the intensity of snowmelt and monsoonal runoof events in montane catchments in New Mexico. Further, in-situ YSI sonde, Satlantic Submersible Ultraviolet Nitrate Analyzer (SUNA) and CycleP instrumentation show physical and chemical constituents respond to higher flow events driven by climate variability, and the constituents these instruments measure can be used as a proxy to estimate whole stream metabolism and nutrient cycling processes.

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Data Selection: Historical flux tower data from 2007 to 2011 was provided by UNM Marcy Litvak for two locations near our study site on the EFJR.  Los Alamos National Lab provided flux data from 2005 to 2006.  Flux towers provided photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) and barometric pressure in 30 minute time intervals.  In-stream YSI sondes continuously monitored the Jemez and East Fork Jemez Rivers in 15 minute time intervals collecting water quality data (dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, specific conductance, water temperature).


Instrument Name: YSI Sonde Manufacturer: YSI IncorporatedModel Number: 6920V2-0

Quality Assurance: 

Sonde and flux data were QAQC'd using Aquarius software to delete suspicious data (or outliers) and to correct for drift from biofouling on probes.

Additional information: 

Study Area Name:  East Fork Jemez River

Study Area Location:  Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico

Study Area Description: 

Elevation: 2582 meters

Landform: Montane grassland, caldera

Geology: Volcanic

Soils: Rich organic soils; Mollisols

Hydrology: snowpack(winter) and monsoonal rainfall (summer)

Vegetation: grassland, meadow

            Climate: Semi-arid

Site history: Domestic grazing of sheep from mid-1800's to 1940's, then cattle by 1940's.

Single Point:  EFJR at Hidden Valley (from VCNP)

North Coordinate: 35.83666667

West Coordinate: -106.5013833

The Contribution of Biological Soil Crust Carbon and Nitrogen Exchange to the Net Ecosystem Exchange Along an Elevation Gradient at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico


The purpose of this project is to: 1.) determine how biological soil crust (BSC) cover changes along an elevation gradient and across seasons, 2.) determine how carbon and nitrogen exchanges of BSC communities vary with temperature along an elevation gradient in arid and semi-arid environments and, 3.) use photosynthetic and respiration rates of BSC communities to determine how the contribution of the BSC communities to whole ecosystem carbon exchange varies across the same gradient and over seasons.

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At each sampling site and sampling period a small amount of surface crust (approx. one teaspoonful per sample) was taken from each of 10 locations at approximately 1 meter intervals over a transect.  Samples were transported back to the laboratory in plastic bags.

On rare occasions we removed a larger sample, 0.5 liter volume or less, at one or two sampling stations.

Additional information: 

Study sites included: Flux tower sites, desert grassland, desert shrubland, juniper savanna, piñon-juniper woodland, ponderosa pine forest, and mixed conifer forest.

Contributions of Soil Communities to Ecosystem Respiration and Greenhouse Gas Emmisions in a Piñon-Juniper Woodland at the Sevilleta National Widlife Refuge, New Mexico (2011)


Global climate change processes, especially prolonged droughts and increasingly high temperatures, are significantly affecting numerous arid ecosystems across the state of New Mexico.  One of the more adversely affected ecosystems in New Mexico is piñon-juniper woodland (PJ), which includes areas near Mountainair, New Mexico, USA.  Because changes in ambient temperature and decreases in water availability show pervasive effects on the above-ground status of existing PJ woodlands in New Mexico, it seems likely that the effects of changes in these two master variables will manifest themselves within soil processes such as soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition rates and soil respiration rates, as well as nutrient cycling rates and availabilities to both plants and soil microbial communities. 

We conducted analyses of soil physicochemical properties and soil fungal biomass via soil ergosterol content, as well as evaluating the activity rates of multiple hydrolytic exoenzymes, which are indicative of fungal activity in soils.  Samples were collected from multiple tree-to-tree competition gradients that were identified in May/June of 2011.  These gradients were established based on the type of mycorrhizal fungus types expected to occupy the soil community established beneath the canopy of a focal tree, with there being two focal trees in each gradient.  Gradients were established between two live piñon trees (Pinus edulis), two juniper trees (Juniperus monosperma), a live piñon and live juniper, and a dead piñon and live juniper.  We only sampled from under live trees at the control site.

In order to obtain these samples, we collected soil samples from two different sites in a PJ woodland located within the boundaries of the Deer Canyon ranch. Changes in soil conditions were captured by sampling from the two sites at multiple times throughout the summer of 2011.  We collected samples from Dr. Marcy Litvak’s girdled PJ woodland eddy-flux tower site in June, July, August and finally in late September.  We also collected samples from Dr. Litvak’s control PJ woodland tower site in June and September of 2011.  Significant differences in the activity rates of the hydrolytic exoenzymes alanine aminopeptidase, alkaline phosphatase, β-d-glucosidase, and β-N-acetyl glucosaminidase were observed within soils collected at multiple times from June through September when comparing the observed rates of activities under the trees in the live piñon to live piñon gradients vs. the juniper to juniper gradients.  These differences were observed in samples from multiple dates at the girdled site without there being significant differences in soil fungal biomass across seasons or study sites.  Continued work with the established sites on a year-to-year basis could provide an insight into how the fungal communities within New Mexican PJ woodlands will respond to future changes in soil conditions as global climate change processes advance in New Mexico.

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Experimental design: Randomized complete block design was established at 2 different study sites, girdled piñon-juniper (PJ) woodland and non-girdled (control) PJ woodland.  In late May, 2011, we set-up each study site to contain six complete blocks (plots), each with multiple tree-to-tree gradients.  At the girdled PJ site, each plot included five different tree-to-tree gradients: Live pine to live pine, live pine to dead pine, live pine to live juniper, dead pine to live juniper, and live juniper to live juniper.  At the control PJ site we also established 6 blocks (plots); however, at this site there were only three gradients: Live pine to live juniper, dead pine to live juniper, and live juniper to live juniper.

Setting up plots:  Plots and gradients were established by marking sampling locations with orange flagging tape and pin-flags by Daniel Warnock and Kimberly Elsenbroek on May 19 and 23, 2011. 

Sample collection, allocation and storage: Soil samples were collected monthly from the girdled PJ woodland to establish two pre-monsoonal (dry) season time points, with samples collected on June 6, 2011 and June 15, 2011 considered as being from single time point.  Soil samples collected on July 20, 2011 represented our second dry season time point.  Soil samples for our two post-monsoon moisture time points were collected on August 15, 2011 and September 28, 2011.  As with the girdled site, soils sample from the control PJ woodland site  were collected both before and after the onset of the monsoon season.  However, unlike the girdled PJ woodland site, we only have one pre-monsoon time point June 29, 2011 and one post monsoon time point, September 15, 2011. 

All soil samples were collected by combining three 0-10cm sub-samples into the same zipper-locking plastic storage bag.  Samples were collected from three different locations within each tree-to tree gradient.  Two of the three samples were collected from locations within 30cm of the trunk of each of the two focal trees within a gradient.  The other sample for each gradient was collected from a point at the center of a zone formed by the edges of the canopies from the two competing focal trees.  All samples were then transported to the lab for refrigeration.  

Within 24-72 hours of sample collection, 5mL sub-samples were taken from each bulked soil sample and placed into individual Corning 15mL screw-cap centrifuge tubes.  Each tube was then filled to the 10mL mark with an 0.8% KOH in Methanol solution.  These tubes were placed in the fridge for storage until analyzed for ergosterol content. After preparation of the samples for ergosterol analyses, 1g samples were placed into 125mL round Nalgene bottles for analyses of fungal exoenzyme actitity (EEA) rates from each sample.  All enzyme activity assays were performed within 1 to 5 days after collection. Further, for all but the final post-monsoonal time points, assays were performed within 2 to 3 days of sample collection. 

After all of the fresh, refrigerated samples were alloquated for ergosterol and EEA analyses we placed the remaining quantities of soil for each sample into labeled paper bags for air-drying on a lab bench.  After 1-2 weeks, 30g of each sample was placed into a labeled plastic bag for shipping to Ithaca, New York, USA for analyses of soil-physicochemical properties.  While taking the 30g sub-samples, a separate 5g sub-sample from the air-dried sample was placed into a labeled, no. 1 coin-envelope for storage until analysis of soil hyphal abundance.   After all sub-sampling was completed any remaining soil was kept in its sample bag and stored in the lab.

Hydrolytic exoenzyme activity (EEA) assays: All hydrolytic EEA assays were performed as follows: Each 125mL sample bottle was partially filled with 50mM sodium bicarbonate buffer solution and homogenized using a Kinematica Polytron CH 6010 (Lucerne, Switzerland).  Upon homogenization, sample bottles were filled to 125mL with buffer solution.  Sample bottles were then set aside until placement in black, 96-well, micro-plates.  At the time of placement, each sample suspension was poured into a glass crystalizing dish where it was stirred at high speed into the appropriate columns within each micro-plate.  These columns included a quench control (200 uL sample suspension + 50uL MUB or methylcoumrin substrate control), a sample control (200uL sample suspension + 50uL 50mM bicarbonate buffer) and an assay column (200uL suspension + 50ul 200mM substrate).  Samples were pipetted into four sets of plates with each set analyzing the activity rates of a single hydrolytic enzyme.  These enzymes included alanine amino peptidase, alkaline phosphatase, β-d-glucosidase, and N-acetyl-β-d-glucosiminidase.  Further, all three samples from a single gradient within a single plot were added to the same plate (e.g., all samples from the live-pine-to-live-pine gradient from plot one were pipetted into a single plate for analyzing the activity of the enzyme alkaline-phospotase.

Ultimately our plate layout was completed as follows usingt two other columns for substrate controls:  In column one, we added 200uL buffer and 50uL of a substrate standard, which accounts for the fluorescence emitted by either the MUB, or the methylcoumarin group that is a component of the substrate solution added to the assay wells.  In column six of each plate was a substrate control, which is a solution of 200uL buffer and 50uL of one the four different substrates used in our hydrolytic EEA assays.   Columns 3-5 were our quench controls, which accounts for the quantity of fluorescence emitted by the MUB or methylcoumarin molecule absorbed by the particles in the soil suspension itself.  Columns 7-9 were the sample controls and  account for the amount of fluorescence emitted by the soil suspension + buffer solution added to each well.  Finally, columns 10-12 were our assay wells.  From these wells we could determine enzyme activity by measuring the fluorescence emitted by the MUB or methylcoumarin molecules cleaved off of the substrates initially added to each well.  The substrates included in these assays included: 7-amino-4-methylcoumarin (Sigma-Aldrich), 4-MUB-phosphate (Sigma-Aldrich), 4-MUB-β-d-glucoside (Sigma-Aldrich), and 4-MUB-N-acetyl-β-d-glucosiminide (Sigma-Aldrich). 

Because the intrinsic EEA rates varied across our targeted exoenzymes, assay plates were scanned for flourscence in sets of two.  Alanine aminopeptidase plates and alkaline phosphatase plates were scanned twice, first at 30-40 minutes after substrate addion and again at 50-80 minutes after substrate addition.  β-d-glucosidase, and N-acetyl-β-d-glucosiminidase plates were all scanned at 3-4 hours after substrate addition.  The timing of the second enzyme activity time point depended on expected soil moisture conditions.  Here, the post monsoon soils were allowed to incubate for a total of 5-6 hours prior to the second scan and the pre-monsoon plates were incubated for a total of 7-9 hours. 

Fungal biomass measurements: Fungal biomass was quantified by measuring the concentration of ergosterol in a sub-sample taken from each soil sample collected from June to September.   Within 24-72 hours of sample collection, 5mL sub-samples were taken from each bulked soil sample and placed into individual Corning 15mL screw-cap centrifuge tubes.  Each tube was filled to the 10mL mark with an 0.8% KOH in methanol solution.  Tubes were refrigerated for storage until analyzed for fungal biomass by measuring the ergosterol content within each sample.  Ergosterol concentration for each sample was determined using HPLC with 100% methanol as the solvent at a flow rate of 1.5mL/ minute and a c-18 column.  Ergosterol was quantified by measuring the peak height that passed through a detector set to measure absorbance at 282nm, at 3.7min after the sample was injected into the column.  The height of each peak was then converted into μg ergosterol/g soil and finally converted to mg fungal biomass/ g soil by applying a conversion factor.  




* Instrument Name: Polytron

* Manufacturer: Kinematica

* Model Number: CH 6010

* Instrument Name: GeoXT  

* Manufacturer: Trimble

* Model Number: GeoExplorer 3000 series

* Instrument Name: fmax         

* Manufacturer: Molecular devices

* Model Number: type 374

* Instrument Name: versamax tunable micro-plate reader

* Manufacturer: molecular devices

* Model Number: ?

* Instrument Name: SSI 222D isocratic HPLC pump          

* Manufacturer: SSI  

* Model Number: 222D

* Instrument Name: Thermo Seperation Products AS 1000 autosampler     

* Manufacturer: Thermo Seperation Products           

* Model Number: AS 1000

* Instrument Name: Acutect 500 UV/Vis Wavelength detector      

* Manufacturer: Acutect        

* Model Number: 500

* Instrument Name: HP 3396 series iii integrator                              

* Manufacturer: Hewlitt Packard

* Model Number:  3396

Additional information: 

Girdled and control PJ woodland: 34.36N, 106.27W.

Girdled PJ woodland sampled: 6/June/2011, 15/June/2011, 20/July/2011, 15/Aug/2011, 28/Sept/2011.

Control PJ woodland sampled: 29/June/2011, 15/Sept/2011.

Influence of Dominant Grasses on Soil Microbial Activity at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico


Plant species can differentially shape soil biota and abiotic conditions. In some grasslands, edaphic factors are more influential on microbial communities than biotic interactions. Arid grasses are intimately linked with a hyphal network that delivers substantial water and nutrients to plant roots. Examining microbial activities associated with dominant grasses determines how individual plant species shape ecosystem processes and how these processes may be affected as plant communities change. If microbial activity is consistent between different plant species, then microbial activity is largely controlled by edaphic factors, and microbial mediated ecosystem processes may not be affected if plant communities change. If microbial activity varies between plant species, it is controlled by differential plant properties and microbial mediated ecosystem processes would presumably change as plant communities change. The main research questions for this project were 1) does microbial activity vary between dominant semiarid grasses, and 2) is microbial activity driven mainly by edaphic or plant species-specific attributes?

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Experimental Design:

There are five monocultures of each of seven grasses (35 plots) for total of 95 plot. There are 55 plots that have two species: Each of the five non-blue and black species will be planted with blue grama and black grama. Blue and black grama will also be planted together, for a total of 11 species interaction treatments, which will also be replicated five times. The plots will be 2 x 2.5 meters to allow the 0.5 meter strip on one side of the plot to be used in invasion future experiments.

The seven species planted:

Reseeded four species in July 2008. The species planted in each plot can be found in the plot treatment are: Sporobolus cryptandrus, sand_dropseed, Bouteloua gracilis, Blue gramaOryzopsis hymenoides, Indian_ricegrass, Hilaria jamesii, galleta, Aristida purpurea, purple_threeawn, Bouteloua eriopoda, Black gramma, Bouteloua curtipendula, Side oats grama. We reseeded four species in July of 2008.

Soil Sampling:

Only monoculture plots of Bouteloua eriopoda, Bouteloua gracilis and Aristida Purpurea were utilized for this project. Soil samples were collected from the rhizosphere and interspaces between plants. Four soil cores (1cm wide, 3 cm deep) were taken across the plot and mixed together for each sample. Enzyme activity in the rhizosphere and interspace were analyzed separately. Samples were refrigerated and processed within 48 hours of collection to prevent enzyme degradation. Soils were subsampled for organic matter and water content. Field soil moisture was calculated by comparing weights of freshly collected soil and soil dried at 60 °C. A subsample was also burned at 500 °C for 4 hours to determine percent organic matter. The potential activity levels of beta-glucosidase, beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase, alanine aminopeptidase, alkaline phosphatase, and phenol oxidase were measured in the lab following the methods of Stursova et al. (2006).

Biome Transition Along Elevational Gradients in New Mexico (SEON) AmeriFlux Data (ongoing since 2007)


The varied topography and large elevation gradients that characterize the arid and semi-arid Southwest create a wide range of climatic conditions - and associated biomes - within relatively short distances. This creates an ideal experimental system in which to study the effects of climate on ecosystems. Such studies are critical givien that the Southwestern U.S. has already experienced changes in climate that have altered precipitation patterns (Mote et al. 2005), and stands to experience dramatic climate change in the coming decades (Seager et al. 2007; Ting et al. 2007). Climate models currently predict an imminent transition to a warmer, more arid climate in the Southwest (Seager et al. 2007; Ting et al. 2007). Thus, high elevation ecosystems, which currently experience relatively cool and mesic climates, will likely resemble their lower elevation counterparts, which experience a hotter and drier climate. In order to predict regional changes in carbon storage, hydrologic partitioning and water resources in response to these potential shifts, it is critical to understand how both temperature and soil moisture affect processes such as evaportranspiration (ET), total carbon uptake through gross primary production (GPP), ecosystem respiration (Reco), and net ecosystem exchange of carbon, water and energy across elevational gradients.

We are using a sequence of six widespread biomes along an elevational gradient in New Mexico -- ranging from hot, arid ecosystems at low elevations to cool, mesic ecosystems at high elevation to test specific hypotheses related to how climatic controls over ecosystem processes change across this gradient. We have an eddy covariance tower and associated meteorological instruments in each biome which we are using to directly measure the exchange of carbon, water and energy between the ecosystem and the atmosphere. This gradient offers us a unique opportunity to test the interactive effects of temperature and soil moisture on ecosystem processes, as temperature decreases and soil moisture increases markedly along the gradient and varies through time within sites.

Data for this project can be found on the website:

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Data collection follows Ameriflux protocols.  

Gunnison’s Prairie Dog Use of Resource Pulses in a Chihuahuan Desert Grassland at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico: Re-sight Scan Data


Seasonal environments experience cyclical or unpredictable pulses in plant growth that provide important resources for animal populations, and may affect the diversity and persistence of animal communities that utilize these resources. The timing of breeding cycles and other biological activities must be compatible with the availability of critical resources for animal species to exploit these resource pulses; failure to match animal needs with available energy can cause population declines. Adult Gunnison’s prairie dogs emerge from hibernation and breed in early spring, when plant growth is linked to cool-season precipitation and is primarily represented by the more nutritious and digestible plants that utilize the C3 photosynthetic pathway. In contrast, summer rainfall stimulates growth of less nutritious plants using the C4 photosynthetic pathway. Prairie dogs should therefore produce young during times of increased productivity from C3 plants, while pre-hibernation accumulation of body fat should rely more heavily upon C4 plants.  If seasonal availability of high-quality food sources is important to Gunnison’s prairie dog population growth, projected changes in climate that alter the intensity or timing of these resource pulses could result in loss or decline of prairie dog populations.  This project will test the hypothesis that population characteristics of Gunnison's prairie dog, an imperiled grassland herbivore, are associated with climate-based influences on pulses of plant growth.

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Gunnison’s prairie dogs will be monitored at 6 colonies, with 3 colonies each occurring with the range of prairie and montane populations. Colonies for study within the prairie populations occur at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (n = 3 prairie populations) and at Vermejo Park Ranch (n = 3 montane populations).  Live-trapping of prairie dogs will be conducted during 3 periods of the active seasons—following emergence (April), after juveniles have risen to the surface (mid-to-late June), and pre-immergence (beginning in August).  Trapping will occur for 3-day periods, following pre-baiting with open traps.  At capture, sex and body mass of each individual will be recorded.  Blood and subcutaneous body fat samples will be collected nondestructively for analysis of isotopic composition.  Prairie dogs will be marked with dye, and released on site immediately following processing.  After trapping periods at each site have concluded, population counts will be conducted during 2-3 re-sighting (or recapture) periods for each prairie dog colony.  Resighting observation periods will be ~3 hours in length, and consist of 2-6 systematic scans of the entire colony, beginning and ending from marked points outside of the colony boundary.  During each observation period, prairie dogs will be counted, recorded as marked or unmarked, and location on the colony noted.  

Vegetation cover and composition measurements will be collected (or obtained at Sevilleta, where such data is already being collected) during pre- and post-monsoon periods of the active season.  Total cover will be measured by plant species (or to genus if species is indeterminable). Total cover will be measured at 12 grid points per colony using Daubenmire frames (0.5 m x 0.5 m), and at 12 grid locations 200-800 m outside of each colony boundary.  Adjacent to each Daubenmire frame, a 20 cm x 30 cm sample of vegetation will be clipped and dried for determination of volumetric moisture content of vegetation.  

Primary productivity variables (cover, moisture content) will be tested for correlations to individual and population-level condition indicators in prairie dogs.  Carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) from prairie dog blood and fat samples will be analyzed on a continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometer.  The relative contribution of C3 and C4 plants to the diet of each individual will be determined based upon δ13C ratios for C3 and C4 plants in the study area and a 2-endpiont mixing model, and will be calculated for each individual animal, population and season.  Population estimates will be calculated using mark-resight estimates, and compared to maximum above-ground counts.  The influence of resource pulses on prairie dog population parameters will be tested by comparing the vegetation cover, moisture content, and ratio of total C3:C4 plant cover to the ratio of C3:C4 plants in prairie dog diets, population estimates, and juvenile:adult ratios as an index to population recruitment.   


*Instrument Name: Continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometer

*Manufacturer: Thermo-Finnigan IRMS  Delta Plus 

*Instrument Name: Elemental Analyzer

*Manufacturer: Costech

*Model Number: ECS4010

Additional information: 

Other Field Crew Members: Talbot, William; Duran, Ricardo; Gilbert, Eliza; Donovan, Michael; Nichols, Erv; Sevilleta LTER prairie dog field crew led by Koontz, Terri; Sevilleta NWR prairie dog field crew led by Erz, Jon.

Tissue samples are analyzed for stable carbon isotope ratios in stable isotope laboratory operated by Dr. Zachary Sharp and Dr. Nicu-Viorel Atudorei of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico.

The primary objective of this study is to examine the control that substrate quality and climate have on patterns of long-term decomposition and nitrogen accumulation in above- and below-ground fine litter. Of particular interest will be to examine the degree these two factors control the formation of stable organic matter and nitrogen after extensive decay.

Grazing in grasslands creates changes in plant community structure. The magnitude of these changes depends on the productivity and the intensity of grazing.

Keystone species have large impacts on community and ecosystem properties, and create important ecological interactions with other species.  Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) and banner-tailed kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis) are considered keystone species of grassland ecosystems, and create a mosaic of unique habitats on the landscape.


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