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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Interannual Variability in Primary Production in Tallgrass Prairie: Climate, Soil-Moisture, Topographic Position, and Fire as Determinants of Aboveground Biomass
Year: 1995
Author(s): Briggs, J. M., Knapp, A. K.
Source Title: American Journal of Botany
Source Type: Journal
pages: 1024-1030
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: From 1975 to 1993, aboveground net primary production (NPP) at the Konza Prairie Research Natural Area in NE Kansas varied from 179 g/m2 to 756 g/m2. Across a variety of sites, NPP was significantly related to precipitation (r2 = 0.37), but much variability was unexplained. Thus, we evaluated the relationship between NPP with meteorological variables and soil moisture measurements in tallgrass prairie sites that varied in fire frequency and topographic position. Annually burned lowland sites had significantly higher NPP than either annually burned upland or unburned sites. NPP in burned sites was more strongly related to meteorological variables and soil moisture when compared to unburned sites. The lack of significant correlation between soil moisture with NPP on unburned sites suggests that factors other than water availability limit production in these sites. When NPP data were analyzed separately by life forms, interannual variability in forb NPP was not correlated with any meteorological variables, but was negatively correlated with grass NPP (r = -0.49). The inability of a single factor, such as precipitation to explain a large portion of the interannual variability in NPP is consistent with the concept that patterns of NPP in tallgrass prairie are a product of spatial and temporal variability in light, water, and nutrients, driven by a combination of topography, fire history, and climate.