Soil Health in Remnant and Restored Prairies in Tall Grass Regions of Missouri

Principle Investigators:  Dr. Steve Anderson, Samuel Lord (University of Missouri graduate student), Dr. Kristen Veum (USDA – ARS), Dr. Lauren Sullivan (University of Missouri)

Project Description:

The overall objective of this research is to improve our understanding of factors influencing the restoration trajectory and restoration potential of former agricultural land. This will be accomplished by evaluating biological, chemical, and physical aspects of soil health as well as floristic quality and diversity at sites representing variable agricultural and restoration practices over time across Missouri.

Objective 1: Determine how the ecological restoration trajectory and potential, measured by soil health and floristic quality and diversity, is regulated by 1) the agricultural legacy (e.g., row crop versus pasture), 2) regional soil and climate characteristics (soil taxonomy and texture class, mean annual temperature and precipitation; MAT and MAP), and 3) restoration practices (reseeding, tillage, prescribed fire).

Hypothesis 1a: Sites with more intensive historical agricultural management (e.g., row crop versus pasture) will exhibit slower ecological recovery (lower slope of trajectory over time) and reduced recovery potential over time (reduced maxima/equilibrium) as measured by soil health indicators and floristic quality and diversity.

Hypothesis 1b: Soil health and floristic quality and diversity will be significantly influenced by inherent edaphic and climate factors (soil taxonomic order, suborder, and texture class, MAT; MAP) where soil health values (SOC and related indicators) increase from coarse to fine soil texture, vary with soil subgroup class, and increase with higher MAT and lower MAP.

Hypothesis 1c: Restoration management practices will affect ecological recovery, where sites with prescribed fire, reduced soil disturbance, and reduced invasive species, will exhibit more rapid ecological recovery and increased recovery potential over time, as measured by soil health and floristic quality and diversity.