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Vegetation and Small Mammal Community Response to Military Track Vehicle Disturbance at Smoky Hills Air National Guard Bombing Range, Kansas

Investigators
Dr. Philip S. Gipson
Dr. David Engle (Iowa State)
Mr. Ryan Limb (Ph.D. Student, Oklahoma State)
Mr. Kevin Blecha

Project Supervisor
Dr. Craig Paukert

Funding
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Lab (CERL)

Location
Smoky Hills Air National Guard Range, Kansas
Collaborators
Galen Wiens, Smoky Hill
Air National Guard Natural
Resources Department
Completion
December 2008
Objectives

Does grazing by livestock have a positive, negative, or neutral effect on the capacity of land to sustain military training?

Does haying have a positive, negative, or neutral effect on the capacity of the land to sustain military training? If the effect is not neutral, what is the size of the difference?

Progress and Results

The third and final year of this field experiment investigating responses of vegetation and small mammal communities to anthropogenic-induced disturbances was completed in 2007. The study design involved pre- (2005), same-year as- (2006), and post-treatment (2007) assessments at 6 annually cattle grazed and 6 annually hayed sites (4, 1-ha plots per site). At each of the 12 sites, two plots were randomly assigned simulated-military tracked vehicle treatment using a 40,000 lb. dozer in 2006. This combined with establishment of electric fences at grazed sites resulted in an experimental block design of a control, a grazed or hayed-only, a grazed or hayed plus military tracked, and a military-tracked suite of plots.

Vegetation sampling was again conducted in 2007 for cool (early summer) and warm season (late summer-early fall) species. Small mammal community assessments based on live-trapping were conducted again in 2008 during pre- (March-April) and post-growing (November-December) season conditions. Preliminary analysis of vegetation response suggest a single year of disturbance by a tracked vehicle regardless of being grazed or hayed may result in minimal changes to species composition and vegetative cover 12-18 months later. However, small mammal community composition as indicated by species richness suggest tracked vehicle disturbance can result—at least on a short-term basis-- in more diversity than areas impacted by a combination of tracked vehicle disturbance and grazing if above normal precipitation occurs during the growing season.

Three years of data collection was concluded Fall 2007 in an experimental design aimed at assessing the small-mammal community response to controlled levels of disturbance by mechanized tracked vehicles, disturbance by cattle grazing, and a combination of the two treatments. Vegetation, soils, and arthropod data were collected concurrently on the same sites by Oklahoma State University.

Final data analysis and interpretation is underway. R. Limb is preparing his Ph.D. dissertation to address the vegetation response. D. Althoff, K. Blecha, and P. Gipson are evaluating the small mammal data. A final report combining the vegetation and small mammal response is be completed and submitted to ERDC-CERL in 2008.

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