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Data from: Decadal heat and drought drive body size of North American bison (Bison bison) along the Great Plains

Cite this dataset

Martin, Jeff; Barboza, Perry S. (2020). Data from: Decadal heat and drought drive body size of North American bison (Bison bison) along the Great Plains [Dataset]. Dryad.


Large grazers are visible and valuable indicators of the effects of projected changes in temperature and drought on grasslands. The grasslands of the Great Plains has supported the greatest number of bison (Bison bison; Linnaeus, 1758) since prehistoric times. We tested the hypothesis that body mass (BM; kg) and asymptotic body mass (ABM; kg) of Bison decline with rising temperature and increasing drought over both temporal and spatial scales along the Great Plains. Temporally, we modeled the relationship of annual measures of BM and height (H; m) of 5781 Bison at Wind Cave National Park (WICA) from 1966 to 2015. We used Gompertz equations of BM against age to estimate ABM in decadal cohorts; both females and males decreased from 1960s to 2010s. Male ABM was variable but consistently larger (699 vs. 441 kg) than female ABM. We used local mean decadal temperature (MDT) and local mean decadal Palmer Drought Severity Index (dPDSI) to model the effects of climate on ABM. Drought decreased ABM temporally (˗16 kg/local dPDSI) at WICA. Spatially, we used photogrammetry to measure body height (H) of 773 Bison to estimate BM in 19 herds from Saskatchewan to Texas, including WICA. Drought also decreased ABM spatially (˗16 kg/local dPDSI) along the Great Plains. Temperature decreased ABM both temporally at WICA (˗115 kg/°C local MDT) and spatially (˗1 kg/°C local MDT) along the Great Plains. Our data indicate that temperature and drought drive Bison ABM presumably by affecting seasonal mass gain. Bison body size is likely to decline over the next five decades throughout the Great Plains due to projected increases in temperatures and both the frequency and intensity of drought.


Excerpt from the methods section of the article, "The spatial dataset included 1,995 photogrammetric images collected from 19 localities over the summer of 2017 and the following winter of 2017-2018 along the Great Plains. Ultimately, we used 773 photographs from 579 female and 194 male Bison to estimate height (HE; m; Fig. 5) and body mass (BME; kg; Fig. 3) across 19 herds ranging from Saskatchewan (52.2 °N) to Texas (30.7 °N) during the summer of 2017 and following winter of 2017-2018. As an aside, this spatial dataset included WICA (43.6 °N; Fig. 2, site 8) as a site to establish a control for comparison between the spatial and temporal datasets. Bison BME was predicted from known H and estimated HE (using results from Equation 1, which are reported as Equations 3 and 4) for both males and females."


Explorers Club

Boone and Crockett Club

Western Bison Association

Throlson American Bison Foundation

Graduate Student Association of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Department at Texas A&M University

Larry D. Agenbroad Legacy Fund at the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota