American Burying Beetle is lead article in Great Plains Research issue

Released on 11/02/2011, at 12:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., November 2nd, 2011 —

Has the American burying beetle decreased or increased its historic range in Nebraska? To find that answer, Jessica Jurzenski, University of Nebraska-Lincoln entomology doctoral candidate, and her colleagues conducted surveys of the beetle in Nebraska between 2001 and 2010. Jurzenski's article leads the fall 2011 issue of Great Plains Research.

The American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus Olivier) once occurred throughout temperate eastern North America in 35 states and three Canadian provinces. By 1989 the beetle was listed as endangered. At present the beetle is found in less than 10 percent of its historic range.

“Although the specific reasons for the rapid decline of the American burying beetle are still undetermined, human impacts are suspected to have played a role,” said Jurzenski. “Our purpose for this study was to update all carrion beetle (Coleoptera: Silphidae) county records in Nebraska.”

Despite the apparent population size and range in Nebraska, the American burying beetle is still rare compared to most other silphid species. However, the surveys conducted by Jurzenski and her colleagues indicate the beetle is locally abundant in a least five counties in the Sandhills. Through trapping and tagging methods, the scientists found a majority of the beetles moved 1.6 km or less over a single night, but beetles were capable of traveling as much as 7.41 km to 29.19 km on a wind-aided night.

From 1995 to 2009, UNL researchers Michael A. Cover, Scott E. Hygnstrom, and Scott R. Groepper led a team of colleagues from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the USDA-APHIS-WS National Wildlife Research Center to collect tissue samples from free-ranging elk in Nebraska. In their article, “Surveillance of Selected Diseases in Free-Ranging Elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) in Nebraska, 1995-2009,” they list several diseases found during their study including bovine viral diarrhea, leptospirosis, bluetongue virus, epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus, and chronic wasting disease, but did not find brucellosis.                                                  

Also in the fall issue of Great Plains Research, in “Historical Biogeography of Nebraska Pronghorns (Antilocapra americana),” Justin D. Hoffman of McNeese State University, and UNL researchers Hugh H. Genoways and Rachel R. Jones studied archeological and paleontological records of pronghorns within the current boundaries of Nebraska. They found the geographic distribution of the pronghorn at the beginning of the 19th century was along the western perimeter of the eastern forest and tallgrass prairie. By the early 20th century, the pronghorn was nearly extirpated from Nebraska, with only scattered herds in the western panhandle. A 1907 hunting ban and subsequent wildlife management by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has reestablished the herds throughout nearly half of Nebraska including the panhandle and Sandhills.

Diane L. Larson from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center and her colleagues from the University of Minnesota studied native and European haplotypes of the common reed (Phragmites australis) in the Central Platte River of Nebraska. They found recent rapid increases in both the distribution and density of the non-native common reed have begun to impact habitat for migrating sandhill cranes and nesting piping plovers and least terns. Their retrospective analysis of historical Phragmites collections from the Central Platte watershed, collected from 1902 to 2006, and a 2008 collection allowed them to determine that the invasion of non-native common reed began approximately in 1973 when the Nebraska portion of Interstate 80 was built.

South Dakota State University researcher Alexander J. Smart and his colleagues presented their findings on herbicide use in “Effects of Herbicides and Grazing on Floristic Quality of Native Tallgrass Pastures in Eastern South Dakota and Southwestern Minnesota.” Smart said, “The object of this study was to determine the effects of past land-use practices on floristic quality of remnant native pastures in South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota.”

Iowa State University sociologist David J. Peters identified demographic and economic factors in his article, “Persistent Place-Based Income Inequality in Rural Nebraska, 1979-2009.”  He offers four key findings concluding that successful economic development efforts in rural Nebraska are likely to result in increased income inequality at the local level due to an increase of low-skill service jobs, but a lack of child care, transportation, and educational opportunities.          

In “Future Participation in the Conservation Reserve Program in North Dakota,” by USDA researcher Lorilie M. Atkinson and University of North Dakota faculty Rebecca J. Romsdahl and Michael J. Hill, the authors gauged the impact of agriculture and energy policies on conservation practices through a survey of conservation reserve program contract holders in the Prairie Pothole Region. They found that while landowners value both the revenue and ecological benefits provided, and an increasing number of contract holders plan to return to annual crop production for economic reasons, these landowners do not make conservation decisions based solely on financial incentives.

Richard K. Sutton, UNL professor of horticulture, asserts that “scale” connects humans to their environment in his article, “A Model of Human Scale Tested on Rural Landscapes Scenes.” Using maps, photographs, and drawings, Sutton demonstrated relationships between scale and landscape structure. He suggests that the human response to scale is a major component in the manipulation of rural landscapes, such as clearing or planting windbreaks and hedgerows, consolidating fields, building new roads, siting rural electrical transmission lines, and creating riparian buffers.

U.S. Geological Survey scientist Roger F. Auch and colleagues looked at ecoregional differences in late-20th-century land-use and land-cover change in the U.S. Northern Great Plains. They concluded that the amounts and types of change depended on various combinations of human activity and biophysical conditions. Cyclic weather variations particularly play a role in regions where wetland and water land-cover conditions fluctuate regularly. The authors suggest continued monitoring of ecoregional fluctuation caused by climate variability and human habitation.

The journal is available for purchase or subscription from the center at 402-472-3082 or in the Great Plains Art Museum gift shop, 1155 Q St., Lincoln.

Writer: Linda Ratcliffe, Center for Great Plains Research



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