Plant community and ecosystem responses to nitrogen deposition in two northern Great Plains national parks
Studies from around the world have shown shifts in plant community composition, reduced plant diversity and increased abundance of invasive species in response to nitrogen addition. These results may indicate that increasing atmospheric nitrogen deposition caused by fossil fuel combustion and agricultural activities will adversely affect northern Great Plains ecosystems. However, nitrogen addition studies that have been completed in the northern Great Plains used nitrogen addition levels far above that expected from atmospheric deposition. This project partnered with Colorado State University to experimentally investigate the effects of realistic nitrogen deposition on a wide variety of plant and soil parameters in three widespread vegetation types at Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks. The goal of the work is to determine the critical nitrogen load, below which significant harmful effects on sensitive elements of the environment do not occur, for these important vegetation types.