Pino Gate Prairie Dog Study: Landscape-scale Vegetation Plot Data from the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico (1999-2002)



Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) and banner-tailed kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis) are considered keystone species of grassland ecosystems, and co-occur in the arid grasslands of the southwestern United States and in Mexico. Their keystone status is attributed primarily to the effects of their burrowing and foraging behavior, but they differ ecologically in several important respects. We studied the comparative functional roles of these species where they co-occur at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, focusing on their impacts on grassland vegetation. We found that vegetation cover, structure, and species richness varied across a gradient extending out from the mound centers, and these patterns differed between prairie dog and kangaroo rat mounds. Certain species and functional groups of plants associated differentially with mounds and landscape patches occupied by prairie dogs and banner-tailed kangaroo rats. Where both species co-occurred locally there was greater soil disturbance, more organic material from their feces, and higher activity of other animals. The overall effect of these rodents was to create a mosaic of different patches across the landscape such that their combined activities increased andscape heterogeneity and plant species richness. Our results demonstrate complementary effects of two co-occurring keystone species on their associated biotic communities.

Data set ID: 


Date Range: 

Friday, October 1, 1999 to Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Publication Date: 

Thursday, March 3, 2016



Additional Project roles: 


Data Manager


Field Crew

Data sources: