Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) and banner-tailed kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis) are considered keystone species of grassland ecosystems, and co-occur in the arid grasslands of the southwestern United States and in Mexico. Their keystone status is attributed primarily to the effects of their burrowing and foraging behavior, but they differ ecologically in several important respects. We studied the comparative functional roles of these species where they co-occur at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, focusing on their impacts on grassland vegetation. We found that vegetation cover, structure, and species richness varied across a gradient extending out from the mound centers, and these patterns differed between prairie dog and kangaroo rat mounds. Certain species and functional groups of plants associated differentially with mounds and landscape patches occupied by prairie dogs and banner-tailed kangaroo rats. Where both species co-occurred locally there was greater soil disturbance, more organic material from their feces, and higher activity of other animals. The overall effect of these rodents was to create a mosaic of different patches across the landscape such that their combined activities increased landscape heterogeneity and plant species richness. Our results demonstrate complementary effects of two co-occurring keystone species on their associated biotic communities.


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/de2ef35ea80fe1c982a569752ed15487, 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 (


SEV LTER, Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM , 87131


Temporal coverage

1999-10-01 - 2002-05-01

Spatial coverage

The study site was located near the base of the Los Pinos mountains and directly adjacent to the nothern fencline of the SNWR at Pino Gate



Permanent URL

knb-lter-sev.194.188142-metadata.html (130 kB)
Show full metadata

knb-lter-sev.194.188142-provenance.xml (4 kB)
Show provenance metadata

knb-lter-sev.194.188142-report.html (25 kB)
Show original LTER Network Data Portal ingest report

sev194_pdogvegmound_01132009.txt (1229 kB)
Data in TXT format


Article Location