Influence of abrams M1A1 main battle tank disturbance on tallgrass prairie plant community structure

Peggy S. Althoff, Mary Beth Kirkham, Timothy C. Todd, Stephen J. Thien, Philip S. Gipson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The Department of Defense's Range and Training Land Assessment program provides information and recommendations to range managers regarding the condition of training lands. This information is used to assist in scheduling training areas and in monitoring the effectiveness of rehabilitation projects. Fort Riley Military Installation is a major training reservation located in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas, within the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. A randomized complete block design composed of three treatments (M1A1 Abrams tank traffic during wet and dry soil conditions, and a nontrafficked control) with three replications was established in each of two soil types, a silty clay loam and a silt loam soil, on Fort Riley in 2003. Disturbance was created by driving the tank for five circuits in a figure-eight pattern during either during wet or dry soil conditions. Two additional experimental treatments were added during the study: five additional tank passes on one-half of each figure eight in 2004 and burning in 2006. Two areas, a curve and straightaway, within each traffic intensity (and later, burn treatment) subplot were designated for sampling. Aboveground biomass, species composition, and ground cover were measured during each growing season. Recovery of grass and total aboveground biomass in silty clay loam soil was delayed for curve areas and following disturbance in wet soil conditions, respectively. Species composition and ground cover continued to exhibit significant disturbance effects in 2007, with greatest damage observed for repeated traffic under wet soil conditions. Fire effects on vegetation were variable and generally greater for undisturbed control plots than for disturbed areas. The tallgrass prairie typically is considered to be among the most resilient of military training lands, but our research suggests that resiliency isdependent upon soil type and training conditions, and may require longer periods of recovery than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)480-490
Number of pages11
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Military impacts
  • Net primary production
  • Resilience
  • Species composition


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