About Field Sites
Konza Prairie Biological Station (KONZ) is a terrestrial NEON field site located in the Flint Hills region of Kansas just 10 km (6 mi.) south of Manhattan, KS. The 34.6 km2 (8550 acre) site at the Konza Prairie Biological Station is hosted by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. The surrounding region consists of grasslands, forests, and agricultural land cover types and includes the largest remaining areas of unplowed tallgrass prairie in North America. KONZ is part of the NEON Prairie Peninsula Domain (D06), which stretches from Kansas through Nebraska and Iowa to southern Minnesota, and moves east to encompass Illinois and most of Indiana. The Domain hosts four other NEON field sites: two aquatic and two additional terrestrial, all of which are located in Kansas. KONZ is located just 5 km (~3 miles) east of the KONA terrestrial site. The two sites provide a contrast between more pristine prairie at KONZ and heavily impacted agricultural land at KONA within the same area. Land use and land use management are key grand challenge themes for this Domain. 
KONZ is located within Riley County, which is in the eastern half of Kansas and has a continental climate characterized by warm, wet summers and cold, dry winters. The average annual temperature is 12.4°C (54°F).The average annual precipitation is 870 mm (34 in.) and is sufficient to support woodland or savanna vegetation. The region is known for intense summer storms brought on by moist air from the Gulf of Mexico coming up from the south and colliding with the cold, dry air coming down from the north. Large rainfall events can cause flooding of roads and fields as the rivers overrun with water. Other large weather events common in the area are wildfires and tornadoes.   
Konza Prairie is part of the Chase group, a geologic group from the early Permian laid down in the Gearyan stage. It is composed of cherty limestone and green or red shale. Chert is another term for flint, meaning a sedimentary rock composed of quartz. It is this “flinty” limestone that gives the Flint Hills, home of the Konza Prairie, its name.   
The dominant soil series is Benfield-Florence complex, a silty clay loam, with 5-30% slopes. The second most dominant is Clim-Sogn complex, a clayey soil weathered from limestone and shale, with 3-20% slopes. The soil at KONZ has a low water capacity but is well drained. Bedrock is 0.89 - 0.99 m (2.9 - 3.2 ft.) deep but can be much shallower.  
The Konza Prairie is separated into 50 watersheds, each draining a tributary of King’s Creek which ultimately drains into the Kansas River.  
The Konza Prairie is characterized by native tallgrasses able to withstand the rocky soil and the ferocious winds that whip over the hills. There are over 600 plant species found on the prairie, dominated by big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Woody buckbrush (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) and smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) are common as well. 
The Konza Prairie is home to a wide diversity of native fauna, from large ruminants such as bison (Bison bison) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to the smaller carnivores like coyotes (Canis latrans) and racoons (Procyon lotor). The greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) has breeding grounds on the Konza Prairie and is a special sight to see during the spring when males gather in leks, or booming grounds, and display for the females. Species of notable conservation concern in eastern Kansas are the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius), which is federally threatened, as well as the southern bog lemming (Synaptomys cooperi) and Franklin’s ground squirrel (Spermophilus franklinii), listed by the state of Kansas as Species in Need of Conservation. NEON provides data on five types of wildlife at KONZ: birds, ground beetles, mosquitoes, small mammals, and ticks.    
Past Land Management and Use
The Konza Prairie was once part of a wide-ranging tallgrass prairie that stretched across Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and the Dakotas. The Kansas region of the prairie is home to the Kaw Nation, also known as the “People of the Southwind.” During the eighteenth century, white settlers made contact with the Kaw Nation. The settlers referred to the Kaw Nation as the “Kansa” or “Kanza.” After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the American government took the land, and from 1872 to 1930 it was owned by C.P. Dewey for use as a ranch. It was grazed and burned periodically, but never plowed.
In 1956, almost a hundred years after it was founded, faculty at Kansas State University began the search for land to be used as a prairie field station. They felt the need for an ecological research area that would complement the already ongoing rangeland research in the nearby prairie areas. Their grand plans encountered several setbacks with unsuccessful bids to secure land in the Flint Hills.
In 1971, The Nature Conservancy used funds from an anonymous donor to purchase 916 acres of land for KSU. The donor, Katherine Ordway, remained anonymous until her death but asked that the land be named for its native people. To avoid confusion with the state of Kansas, an alternate spelling was chosen.
Since its inception, scientists have collected ecological data and published over 1680 scientific papers. In 1980 was one of the first of the initial six Long-Term Ecological Research sites chosen by the National Science Foundation. KPBS and Konza Prairie LTER are still a force in prairie research today with over 1600 papers published.      
Current Land Management and Use
The Konza Prairie Biological Station is co-owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University and operated as a field research station by the University’s Division of Biology. Their mission is to promote "long-term ecological research, education and prairie conservation." The KPBS is a member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS) and the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers and is a National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site.
Currently, there are over 100 research projects ongoing in the Konza Prairie in addition to the NEON program. Many of our field sites are within KPBS’s own replicated watershed-level experiment, studying the effects of fire, bison, and cattle on the grassland ecosystem. Each watershed is manipulated by fire frequency via controlled burns and by grazing done with native bison or domestic cattle. Their aim is to understand the abiotic and biotic factors that shape grassland communities and ecosystems.   
NEON Site Establishment
Site characterization and plot establishment for KONZ were completed in 2015 and terrestrial sampling began in February 2016. The distributed plots were allocated at KONZ according to a spatially balanced and stratiﬁed-random design. The NEON flux tower, which stands 8 m (26 ft.) tall and has four instrument levels, began sampling in August 2016. The plots located in the Konza Prairie watershed experiment area are periodically burned according to their specific treatment. Our tower plots are burned every two years, and our scientists remove sensors and then use heat shields to protect the equipment left in place. 
 Konza Prairie Biological Station (n.d.) Konza Prairie Biological Station https://kpbs.konza.k-state.edu/v-day/fact-sheets/history.pdf
 The Kaw Nation. (n.d.) Kanza People. The Kaw Nation: People of the Southwind. http://kawnation.com/?page_id=72
 Goodin, D.G., Mitchell, J.E., Knapp, M.C., & Bivens, R.E. (1995). Climate and Weather Atlas of Kansas: An Introduction. Kansas Geologic Survey. https://www.k-state.edu/ksclimate/documents/kgsed.pdf
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 06 NEON.DOC.003890vB
 D06 FIU Site Characterization: Summary NEON.DOC.011079vB
 D06 FIU Site Characterization: Supporting Data NEON.DOC.011078vB
 Bartlett, C.A. (1986) Computer Modeling of Water Yield from King’s Creek Watershed [Master’s Thesis, Kansas State University] http://hdl.handle.net/2097/36137
 The Nature Conservancy. (n.d.) Konza Prairie Biological Station. https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect…
 Nilz, S.K. & Finck, E.J. (2008) Proposed Recovery Plan for the Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spiloglae putorius) in Kansas. Department of Biological Science Fort Hays State University
 Audubon. (n.d.) Greater Prairie-Chicken. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/greater-prairie-chicken
 Kansas State University. (n.d.) Konza Prairie Biological Station: Mission. https://kpbs.konza.k-state.edu/mission.html
 Konza Prairie LTER (n.d.) Konza Prairie Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) http://lter.konza.ksu.edu/
 O’Conner, H.G., Zeller, D.E., Bayne, C.K., Jewett, M.J., Swineford, A. (2005, August) Permian System. Stratigraphic Succession in Kansas (1968). http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Publications/Bulletins/189/08_perm.html
 United States Geological Survey. (n.d.) Chase Group. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/geology/state/sgmc-unit.php?unit=KSPc%3B0
 King, H.M. (n.d.) Chert. Geology: Geoscience News and Information. https://geology.com/rocks/chert.shtml
 Kanas State University (n.d.) Konza Prairie Biological Station: Current Research.https://kpbs.konza.k-state.edu/research/
 United States Geological Survey. (n.d.) Stream Stats. https://streamstats.usgs.gov/ss/
 Konza Prairie LTER. (n.d.) LTER I. http://lter.konza.ksu.edu/lter-i-1980-1985
 McMillan, B.R., D.W. Kaufman, G.A. Kaufman, and R.S. Matlack. 1997. Mammals of Konza Prairie: new observations and an updated species list. The Prairie Naturalist, 29:263-271 http://www.konza.ksu.edu/data_catalog/flora_fauna/mammals.html
 Kansas: Wildlife Parks and Tourism. (n.d.) Riley County https://ksoutdoors.com/Services/Threatened-and-Endangered-Wildlife/List…
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Midwest Endangered Species. (2019 May 29) Mead's Milkweed (Asclepias meadii). https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/plants/meads/index.html
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Midwest Endangered Species. (2019 May 29) Prairie Fringed Orchids Fact Sheet. https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/plants/prairief.html
 Ratajczak, Z., J. B. Nippert, J. C. Hartman, and T. W. Ocheltree. 2011. Positive feedbacks amplify rates of woody encroachment in mesic tallgrass prairie. Ecosphere 2(11):121. doi:10.1890/ES11-00212.1 https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1890/ES11-00212…
 Given, C. (2004). History of the Dewey Ranch. https://kpbs.konza.k-state.edu/history/land.html.  PRISM Climate Group., Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a flux/meteorological tower that is 8 m (26 ft) tall with four measurement levels. The tower top extends above the vegetation canopy to allow sensors mounted at the top and along the tower to capture the full profile of atmospheric conditions from the top of the vegetation canopy to the ground. The tower collects physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, and net ecosystem gas exchange. Precipitation data are collected by a Double Fence Intercomparison Reference (DFIR) near the tower, and a series of throughfalls located in the soil array.
Soil Sensor Measurements
This site has five soil plots placed in an array within the airshed of the flux tower. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at soil surface, soil heat flux, solar radiation, and throughfall are measured at the soil surface in each soil plot. Soil moisture, soil temperature, and CO2 concentration are measured at multiple depths in each soil plot.
At terrestrial sites, field ecologists observe birds and plants, and sample ground beetles, mosquitoes, small mammals, soil microbes, and ticks. Lab analyses are carried out to provide further data on DNA sequences, pathogens, soils, sediments, and biogeochemistry. Learn more about terrestrial observations or explore this site's data products.
Field Site Data
The Nature Conservancy, Kansas State University
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
The Nature Conservancy and Konza Prairie Biological Station (KSU) welcomes and encourages research use that fits their mission and is compatible with their abilities as a host. Please plan on at more than two weeks advance notice to request and plan site access.
NEON Field Operations Office
NEON Field Operations Address
1500 Hayes Drive
Manhattan, KS 66502
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant Wind Direction
Mean Canopy Height
Dominant NLCD Classes
Deciduous Forest, Grassland/Herbaceous
Average number of green days
Average first greenness increase date
Average peak green date
Average first greenness decrease date
Average minimum greenness date
Number of Tower Levels
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Shale and limestone
USGS Geology Age
Early Permian to Gearyan
Megapit Soil Family
Fine, smectitic, mesic. Pachic Udertic Argiustolls.
Pachic Udertic Argiustolls
Other Domain D06 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in KS