Our objective was to determine what effect plains pocket gophers (Geomys bursarius) and their mounds have on plant diversity within Frenchman’s Bluff Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), located in northwestern Minnesota. Our predictions were threefold. First, we predicted increased plant diversity in areas on and immediately surrounding gopher mounds in accordance with the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis. Second, we predicted that biomass in the areas on and around gopher mounds would decrease when compared to control areas where there were no gopher mounds. Lastly, we predicted that yellow sweet clover (Melitotus officinalis) will be more abundant on and around the disturbed mounds than in areas where there is no gopher disturbance. The experiment was performed in one afternoon at Frenchman’s Bluff by creating a 100x100 meter grid and assessing plant diversity and coverage in twenty 2x2 meter randomly selected control plots and comparing with twenty 2x2 meter plots that contained gopher mounds created by G. bursarius. Analysis of percent coverage of yellow sweet clover, biomass and species diversity between the gopher mound and control plots all proved to be statistically insignificant, but are all nearing significance. Given the number of experimental difficulties experienced and the limited scope of this study, it is likely that future research into the effects of the plains pocket gopher activity on plant diversity at the Frenchman’s Bluff SNA will realize conclusive and significant results that correlate with the predictions of this study.
Adams, Nicole; Fillmore, Megan; Frost, Mark; Sinton, Christopher.
Effects of Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius) Disturbances in a Mixed Prairie in Northwestern Minnesota.
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