Our objective was to evaluate the effects of kangaroo rat mounds on species diversity and composition at a semiarid-arid grassland ecotone. We expected that source populations of plants occurring on kangaroo rat mounds have important influences on the species composition of vegetation at the landscape scale, and that these influences differ by grassland type. Our study was conducted at the Sevilleta LTER in New Mexico, where a grassland type dominated by Bouteloua gracilis, a shortgrass steppe species, and a grassland type dominated by B. eriopoda, a desert grassland species, meet to form patches across the landscape. Four 0.4 ha plots were sampled for species diversity and composition in a regular 7m x 7m grid in each grassland type. Kangaroo rat mounds were also mapped and sampled for vegetation measures in four areas of 1.6 ha in each type. The landscape scale abundance of many subordinate species was increased significantly by populations occurring on kangaroo rat mounds in both grassland types. However, the area affected by the burrowing activity of kangaroo rats was twice as large in the B. eriopoda dominated grassland type. Furthermore, dominant plants on mounds in the B. eriopoda type were also abundant in off-mound areas whereas dominant plants on mounds in the B. gracilis type were not as abundant off-mound. These results indicate that the presence of mounds in the B. gracilis dominated type is creating islands of plant communities that are distinct from the rest of the grassland. Therefore, the occurrence of certain plant species in this grassland type may be intimately associated with the disturbance regime at this ecotone. This study demonstrates that effects of small burrowing animals may facilitate the coexistence of species at this ecotone.


Other Identifier


Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB) Identifier


Document Type



This dataset was originally published on the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network Data Portal,, and potentially via other repositories or portals as described. The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) of the source data package is doi:10.6073/pasta/f2d06c228db36226e68ef750a56eabea, and may be accessed at Metadata and files included in this record mirror as closely as possible the source data and documentation, with the provenance metadata and quality report generated by the LTER portal reproduced here as '*-provenance.xml' and *-report.html' files, respectively.


Data Policies: This dataset is released to the public and may be freely downloaded. Please keep the designated Contact person informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation or collaboration with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset must include proper acknowledgement of the Sevilleta LTER. Datasets must be cited as in the example provided. A copy of any publications using these data must be supplied to the Sevilleta LTER Information Manager. By downloading any data you implicitly acknowledge the LTER Data Policy (


Temporal coverage


Spatial coverage

Deep Well is located on McKenzie Flats and is site of the longest running SEV LTER met station, number 40, which has been active since 1988. In addition to studies of meteorological variables, core line-intercept vegetation transects and line-intercept transects from the 1995 & 2001 Deep Well fires are sampled here. The mini-rhizotron study, blue and black grama compositional comparison, blue and black grama patch dynamics investigation, and kangaroo rat population assessement are all ongoing here. Deep Well Blue/Black Grama Mixed is also the location of the warming and monsoon experiments, as well as portions of the line-intercept and vegetation removal studies. On August 4, 2009, a lightning-initiated fire began on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. By August 5, 2009, the fire had reached the area of Deep Well Blue/Black Grama Mixed. While portions of this site were burned, the entirety was not. See individual projects for further information on the effects of the fire.McKenzie Flats is located within the northeastern section of the Sevilleta NWR, encompassing an area from Black Butte south to Palo Duro Canyon and east to the Los Pinos.



Permanent URL

knb-lter-sev.169.192538-metadata.html (175 kB)
Show full metadata

knb-lter-sev.169.192538-provenance.xml (4 kB)
Show provenance metadata

knb-lter-sev.169.192538-report.html (26 kB)
Show original LTER Network Data Portal ingest report

sev169_krat_03072012 (50 kB)
Data in TXT format


Article Location