Konza Prairie researchers will soon know more about why grazing animals choose certain feeding locations and how their choices impact the ecology of the tallgrass prairie, thanks to a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Tony Joern, university distinguished professor in biology at K-State will share the award with collaborators John Briggs, director of the Knoza Prairie Biological Station; Douglas Goodin, professor of georgraphy; Adam Skibbe, information manager in biology and Gene Towne, research associated in biology.
Joern said there may be several factors that influence feeding choices, such as forage nutritional quality, height of vegetation, landscape position, weather conditions and the area's level of fire frequency.
"There are a lot of data out there that suggest herbivores prefer to graze on burned areas, but within those areas how do they finally decide which clump of grass to chomp on?" Briggs said.
American bison will be used as the model species for the experiment, and they will be given access to various areas on Konza with differing forage quality, burn frequency and landscape positions, thus allowing the animals the opportunity to choose which area they prefer to feed.
To learn more about this unique project, but sure to watch for your December Kansas Farmer.