Konza Prairie

USGSBMIL Team

 MANHATTAN, Kansas — Ellen Welti has a Ph.D. in, essentially, grasshoppers.

And yet she was still mystified about why the number of grasshoppers in a long-protected and much-studied patch of Kansas prairie was dropping. Steadily. For 25 years.

After all, the grass that the springy bugs feast on had actually grown more robustly as it absorbed mounting levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

So why were the grasshoppers faring increasingly worse?

Kansas State University researchers have concluded that the decades-long practice of Kansas ranchers burning grassland in late April could take place virtually any time with no ill effects.

E. Gene Towne and Joseph Craine based their research on 20 years of data collected from burning at the Konza Prairie Biological Station south of Manhattan.

They say grass composition and production were not negatively affected by burning in the fall or winter.

That's contrary to research from more than 40 years ago that suggested grass had to be burned in late spring.

Sierra Club Irked At Ozone Monitor Shutdown

Apr 18, 2013
Courtesy / USDA NRCS

The Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club says it's a mistake for the EPA to stop monitoring ozone pollution on the Konza Prairie, near Manhattan. Ozone concentrations there have been consistently higher than the level allowed under federal air quality standards.

The monitor four miles south of Manhattan has been collecting data since 2002. The EPA says their monitors operate at the discretion of the landowner.