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SGS-LTER Impact of Labile and Recalcitrant Carbon Treatments on Plant Communities (Basal Cover) in a Semiarid Ecosystem on the Central Plains Experimental Range, Nunn, Colorado, USA 1997-2012, ARS Study Number 3

This data package was produced by researchers working on the Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research (SGS-LTER) Project, administered at Colorado State University. Long-term datasets and background information (proposals, reports, photographs, etc.) on the SGS-LTER project are contained in a comprehensive project collection within the Digital Collections of Colorado (http://digitool.library.colostate.edu/R/?func=collections&collection_id=...). The data table and associated metadata document, which is generated in Ecological Metadata Language, may be available through other repositories serving the ecological research community and represent components of the larger SGS-LTER project collection.

In a 10-year study, we assessed the influence of five carbon (C) treatments on the labile C and nitrogen (N) pools of historically N enriched plots on the Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research site located in northeastern Colorado. For eight years, we applied sawdust, sugar, industrial lignin, sawdust + sugar, and lignin + sugar to plots that had received N and water additions in the early 1970s. Previous work showed that past water and N additions altered plant species composition and enhanced rates of nutrient cycling; these effects were still apparent 25 years later. We hypothesized that labile C amendments would stimulate microbial activity and suppress rates of N mineralization, whereas complex forms of carbon (sawdust and lignin) could enhance humification and lead to longer-term reductions in N availability. Results indicated that of the five carbon treatments, sugar, sawdust, and sawdust + sugar suppressed N availability, with sawdust + sugar being the most effective treatment to reduce N availability. The year after treatments stopped, N availability remained less in the sawdust + sugar treatment plots than in the high-N control plots. Three years after treatments ended, reductions in N availability were smaller (40-60%). Our results suggest that highly labile forms of carbon generate strong short- term N sinks, but these effects dissipate within one year of application, and that more recalcitrant forms reduce N longer. Sawdust + sugar was the most effective treatment to decrease exotic species canopy cover and increase native species density over the long term. Labile carbon had neither short- nor long-term effects on exotic species. Even though the organic amendments did not contribute to recovery of the dominant native species Bouteloua gracilis, they were effective in increasing another native species, Carex eleocharis. These results indicate that organic amendments may be a useful tool for restoring some native species in the shortgrass steppe.

Release Date
Spatial / Geographical Coverage Area
POLYGON ((-104.785833 40.8575, -104.730556 40.8575, -104.730556 40.800278, -104.785833 40.800278))
Publisher Not Specified
Temporal Coverage
September 1, 1997 to October 1, 2012
Creative Commons Attribution
Contact Name
Burke, Ingrid
Contact Email
Public Access Level
Program Code
005:040 - Department of Agriculture - National Research
Bureau Code
005:18 - Agricultural Research Service
Source ID
Harvested from Geodata Harvest
Harvest Source TitleGeodata Harvest
Harvest Source URIhttps://geodata.nal.usda.gov/geonetwork/srv/eng/csw
Last Harvest PerformedWed, 06/03/2020 - 01:00

Metadata Source

NAL Geospatial Catalog