University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Aboveground vegetation removal practices, such as cutting and baling and burning, can both positively and negatively affect a prairie ecosystem. Burning can stimulate growth and species diversity, but removing vegetation and the nutrients it contains without equal replenishment of those nutrients could cause a steady decline in available soil nutrients. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of vegetation removal techniques in a native tallgrass prairie in eastcentral Arkansas. Soil samples were collected from the top 10 cm in each soil mapping unit that existed in each of three prairie areas that differed by the amount of time since aboveground vegetation had been removed by cutting and baling (i.e., 0, 6, and 24 years). Soil samples were analyzed for bulk density, particle-size distribution, organic matter, pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and extractable nutrients. Bulk density and EC were highest in the prairie area in which vegetation removal by cutting and baling still occurs at the present, but organic matter was highest in the prairie area in which cutting and baling ceased in 1998 (i.e., 6 years prior). Soil pH was highest in the prairie area in which cutting and baling ceased in 1980 (i.e., 24 years prior). No consistent trends among the three prairie treatments existed for extractable soil nutrients. The results of this study indicate that common prairie management practices in the Grand Prairie region of east-central Arkansas significantly affect soil physical and chemical properties. Prairie management practices need to be considered carefully to insure long-term sustainability and proper ecosystem functioning