Journal or Book Title
Many ‘‘natural’’ areas are exposed to military or recreational off-road vehicles. The interactive effects of different types of vehicular disturbance on vegetation have rarely been examined, and it has been proposed that some vegetation types are less susceptible to vehicular disturbance than others. At Fort Riley, Kansas, we experimentally tested how different plant community types changed after disturbance from an M1A1 Abrams tank driven at different speeds and turning angles during different seasons. The greatest vegetation change was observed because of driving in the spring in wet soils and the interaction of turning while driving fast (vegetation change was measured with Bray-Curtis dissimilarity). We found that less vegetation change occurred in communities with high amounts of native prairie vegetation than in communities with high amounts of introduced C3 grasses, which is the first experimental evidence we are aware of that suggests plant communities dominated by introduced C3 grasses changed more because of vehicular disturbance than communities dominated by native prairie grasses. We also found that vegetation changed linearly with vehicular disturbance intensity, suggesting that at least initially there was no catastrophic shift in vegetation beyond a certain disturbance intensity threshold. Overall, the intensity of vehicular disturbance appeared to play the greatest role in vegetation change, but the plant community type also played a strong role and this should be considered in land use planning. The reasons for greater vegetation change in introduced C3 grass dominated areas deserve further study.
Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.
Dickson, Timothy L.; Wilsey, Brian J.; Busby, Ryan R.; and Gebhart, Dick L., "Grassland Plant Composition Alters Vehicular Disturbance Effects in Kansas, USA" (2008). Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology Publications. 94.