IGN 15-6 - Prairie dog meltdown: A climate-invasive plant-consumer interaction threat to grasslands

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
C123, Oregon Convention Center
Tim Seastedt, INSTAAR, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO and Stower C. Beals, EBIO, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Prairie dogs have been largely relegated to public lands where their preservation remains strongly defended by advocates. Reduced predation on these animals leads to over-grazing, which leads to dominance by an introduced, alkaloid-bearing plant, bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). The plant becomes winter forage for the animals, and warmer winters allow the animals to graze extensively in the non-growing season. Defoliation of all vegetation can cause dust storms and erosion of surface soils. Soil fertility declines. The classical keystone species, with a new food source and in a changing climate, becomes a transformative agent inducing shrublandification and desertification.