The Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius) plays a significant role in the prairie ecosystem. Researchers have identified direct and indirect effects of their activity on the plant communities in which they reside. Surveys of gopher activity and plant diversity were conducted in an experimental plot established 9 km NW of Lake Itasca, Minnesota USA. The purpose was to determine the impacts these fossorial mammals were having on the plant community on site. Statistical analysis indicated a correlation between distinct vegetation patches and the presence of gopher mounds. The short and long term effects of gopher activity include the availability of light and nutrients as well as active browsing of woody vegetation, respectively. Our findings bolster the growing body of literature on the subject, and provide further evidence that fossorial mammals may be considered the “ecosystem engineers” of the prairie biome.
Bischoff, Karl; Hekrdle, Winnona M.; Maloney, Connor.
The Effects of the Plains Pocket Gopher on Plant Diversity.
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