Fires on the Prairie

The Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS) consists of 8,616 acres of mostly unplowed, virgin tallgrass prairie. It is owned (mostly) by The Nature Conservancy, but it is managed by the Division of Biology at Kansas State University.

The site is one huge experiment and many smaller ones. The area is divided into 50 different watershed units. Think of a watershed as a bowl with the rim of the bowl serving as the border of the individual watershed and center of the bowl seen as the valley in the middle. So, KPBS is basically a square filled with 50 different bowls of various shapes and sizes.

Each watershed has a specific burn treatment. Some are burned every year, some every 2 years, some every 4 years, and the rest are burned every 20 years. We compare the effects of burning (presence, absence, and timing by season) and the effects of grazing (native grazers, cattle, no grazing) on the growth and ecology of the tallgrass prairie.