University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences


Experiment 014 - Successional Dynamics on a Resampled Chronosequence

The purpose of this observational study is to describe the dynamics of ecosystem succession. The change in the number, type, and amount of plant and grazing animal species is monitored in more than 20 fields. These fields were previously cultivated, but then abandoned from agriculture at various times in the past. The fields were left undisturbed for plants to develop from seeds within the soil or brought into the fields by wind or animals. Permanent transects have been established in these abandoned fields for purposes of sampling in a consistent location from year to year. Permanent plots along these transects have been used to sample soil nutrients, (in particular, nitrogen) abundance of vegetation, species composition and herbivore populations. The sampling occurs approximately every 6 years. In the initial survey, 100 quadrats of size 1 by 0.5 m were sampled per field in 23 different fields. Abandoned fields included in E014 are 4, 5, 10, 21, 24, 26, 27, 28, 32, 35, 39, 40, 41, 44, 45, 47, 53, 70, 72, 76, 77. Fields 22(B), 29(A), and 69(C) were originally included in E014 but used for other purposes shortly after the start of the study. This experiment was established in 1983 and 1989 by principal investigators Johannes Knops and David Tilman.

Past work at CDR and elsewhere has demonstrated an overriding influence of fire frequency in maintaining prairie openings and oak savanna at the prairie-forest border. Fire regimes harm some types of species while favoring others and drive light and nutrient dynamics, which in turn drive community functional attributes and diversity levels. Ultimately, fire frequency interacts with climate, N deposition, land use, and biotic invasion to determine the outcomes of tree-grass interactions and the dynamics of vegetation at ecotones such as the prairie-forest border in Minnesota.

In 2006 each field was divided in half, and one half randomly chosen for periodic prescribed burning (a fire every other year). We anticipate that the burned half will continue succession to prairie grassland while the unburned half will become white pine stands if seed sources are nearby, or will otherwise undergo extremely slow succession to oaks.

Methods for e014


Dataset IDTitleRange of Years (# years with data)
ghe014Core Old Field Grasshopper Sampling 1989-2006 (18 years)
hte014Maximum plant height along transects1984-1984 (1 year)
mre014Nitrogen mineralization rate1986-1986 (1 year)
lpe014Percent light penetration1984-1989 (2 years)
pce014Plant species percent cover data1983-2011 (7 years)
she014Shrub data2006-2006 (1 year)
mse014Small mammal abundance1983-1985 (3 years)
care014Soil carbon1983-2007 (5 years)
ne014Soil nitrogen1983-2007 (5 years)
ome014Soil organic matter1983-1983 (1 year)
phe014Soil pH1983-1983 (1 year)
abwe014Supplemental Old Field Grasshopper Sampling 1989-2006 (17 years)

Compiled data is also available in these pre-formatted files.

Compiled Percent Cover and Related variables
Descriptions of Data FieldsTABJMP