Our objective was to evaluate the effects of burrowing activities by banner-tail kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis Merriam) on plant community structure and species dominance for two patch types at an ecotone between shortgrass steppe and desert grasslands in New Mexico, USA. Ten mounds produced by kangaroo rats were selected in patches dominated by Bouteloua gracilis (the dominant in shortgrass steppe communities) and ten mounds were selected in patches dominated by Bouteloua eriopoda (the dominant in Chihuahuan desert grasslands). Plant cover and density by species were sampled from three locations associated with each mound: the mound proper, the edge of the mound in the transition area, and the off-mound vegetation. Similar cover of B. eriopoda for the edges of mounds in both patch types indicates the ability of this species to respond to animal disturbances regardless of the amount of cover in the surrounding undisturbed vegetation. By contrast, cover of B. gracilis was low for all mounds and mound edges in patches dominated by this species. Much higher cover of B. eriopoda on mound edges compared to the undisturbed vegetation in B. gracilis- dominated patches indicates that kangaroo rats have important positive effects on this species. Lower cover of perennial grasses and higher cover of forbs, shrubs, and succulents on the edges of mounds in B. eriopoda - dominated patches compared to patches dominated by B. gracilis indicate the importance of surrounding vegetation to plant responses on disturbed areas. Our results show that kangaroo rats have important effects on both species dominance and composition for different patch types, and may provide a mechanism for small-scale dominance patterns at an ecotonal boundary; thus providing further support for their role as keystone species in desert grasslands.


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/d4a22506c507cdef6a0f34c66f5ebec2, 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

1998-06-01 - 1998-08-01

Spatial coverage

Location: 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 and 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.Vegetation: The vegetation of Deep Well Blue/Black Grama Mixed is Chihuahuan Desert Grassland, dominated by black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda) and blue grama (B. gracilis). Other grasses found at the site include dropseeds (Sporobolus spp.) and threeawns (Aristida spp.). Shrubs are uncommon but those that occur include Yucca glauca, Ephedra torreyi, and four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens). Herbaceous plants include Plantago purshii, Hymenopappus filifolius, and globe mallows (Sphaeralcea spp.)



Permanent URL

knb-lter-sev.144.232030-metadata.html (127 kB)
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knb-lter-sev.144.232030-provenance.xml (3 kB)
Show provenance metadata

knb-lter-sev.144.232030-report.html (22 kB)
Show original LTER Network Data Portal ingest report

sev144_kratdominance_08052003.txt (36 kB)
Data in TXT format


Article Location