Prairie mounds are unique soil surface features that will become increasingly scarce as native tallgrass prairies are continually lost. This study aimed to evaluate (i) whether the soil moisture regime (SMR), mound position, and soil depth affect soil volumetric water content (VWC) and (ii) whether the SMR and mound position affect vegetation over time. Soil VWC was measured continuously from April 2017 to June 2018, and vegetation was sampled in June and August 2017 and in May and August 2018. Maximum VWC for selected rainfall events was ~ 2.5 times greater at 10 cm in the aquic inter-mound than the udic mound position at 30 cm. Soil dry-down rates were four times greater in the udic soil at 10 cm than the aquic soil at 30 cm. Aboveground plant biomass was numerically largest (8489 kg ha−1) at the aquic summit in August 2018 and smallest (1280 kg ha−1) at the aquic inter-mound in May 2018. Results clearly demonstrate the effects that prairie mound topography and differing SMRs have on soil water dynamics and prairie vegetation and suggest that management efforts need to account for mound topography and SMR in order to be most successful.
Part of the book: Grasses and Grassland Aspects