Prairie Research Project

By

Danielle Lewandowski

&

Eleni Kutulas

November 2, 1999

BI 341

Abstract: Soil that was located near the concrete contained more nutrients than the soil near the vegetation. The purpose of the research project was to determine the amount of nutrients found in the different locations of the prairie, which can be used, for future reference to compare the levels of nutrients over a period of time. The amounts of nutrients in the soil were measured by using the Lamott soil test kit. We collected a total of nine different samples of soil from three different locations on the prairie. Each of the three locations contained three different sections from where the soil was taken.

Introduction: Our hypothesis was soil closer to the vegetation on the prairie would contain more nutrients than the soil further away from the vegetation. The nutrients that were measured were phosphorus and potassium. The pH of the soil was also tested. Having this information will aid in further testing of the soil and planting on the prairie. Research has shown " nutrients may interact in ways that benefit plant reproduction" ( Wagner 1997).Knowing the amounts of nutrients and the type of vegetation on a prairie help to explain why the levels of nutrients are what they are. Over a period of time a prairie is burned because it is beneficial to replenishment of the nutrients in the soil (Costello 1969).

Method: In the fall of 1999 nine samples of soil was collected from the prairie located on the campus of Alverno College. Three sites were used they were 3000 NW of light pole A, 268 0 NW of electricity pole, and 2600 NW of light pole C. Within those three sites three different soil samples were taken one closest to the curb, one in the middle, and one next to the vegetation line. Basic digging tools were used, a container for each soil sample, and the LaMotte soil test kit. Each soil sample was tested for pH, phosphorus, and potassium. The amounts of nutrients were measured in levels, such as trace, low, medium, and high.

Results: Soil located near the vegetation contained lower amounts of nutrients. The difference between the nine different soil samples was minimal. The soil located near in the middle of each site contained the highest levels of potassium and the soil located near the curb and the middle contained the highest levels of phosphorus. The pH for all soil samples was the same, 8.0. Site #1; sample 1 contained a medium to high phosphorus level and a medium level of potassium, sample 2 contained a trace level of phosphorus and a medium to high level of potassium, sample 3 contained a trace to low phosphorus and a low to medium level of potassium. Site #2; sample 1 contained a trace level of phosphorus and a low to medium level of potassium, sample 2 contained a trace to low level of phosphorus and a medium level of potassium, sample 3 contained a trace level of phosphorus and a low to medium level of potassium. Site #3; sample 1 contained a trace level of phosphorus and a medium level of potassium, sample 2 contained a trace level of phosphorus an d a medium to high level of potassium, sample 3 contained a less than trace level of phosphorus and a medium to high level of potassium.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Site number

Soil number

pH

Phosphorus

Potassium

#1

1

8.0

medium-high

medium

#1

2

8.0

trace

medium-high

#1

3

8.0

trace-low

low- medium

#2

1

8.0

trace

low-medium

#2

2

8.0

trace-low

medium

#2

3

8.0

trace

low-medium

#3

1

8.0

trace

medium

#3

2

8.0

trace

medium-high

#3

3

8.0

less than trace

medium-high

 

Discussion: Through our research we found that "the networks of roots give the prairie community access to water and nutrients"(Ross and Ross 1998). This lead us to believe that the soil located nearest to the vegetation would contain the highest levels of nutrients because when the plants and trees begin to die their waste is decomposed hence the soil will be replenished of it nutrients. We found this not to be true. The soil located near the curb and in the middle of the prairie could have contained a higher level of nutrients because there is no vegetation depleting the nutrients. If repeating this research project we would test more nutrients and collect soil during different times of the year.

 

Literature Cited:

Ross, John and Ross, Beth. 1998. Prairie Time. The University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI : 75

W#agner,Diane.1997 The Influence of ant nests on Acacia seed production, herbivory and soil nutrients. Journal of Ecology 97:83

Costello, David. 1969. The Prairie World. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, MN