University researchers kansas state university suggested the reintroduction of wild bison to restore grasslands. They claimed that this once-dominant herbivore in the region’s tallgrass prairies would double plant diversity on the Great Plains. Recently published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencethe results of their work have provided a better understanding of the plant communities of the region.
In particular, they found that certain plants were able to withstand drought the most extreme for more than forty years. The restoration of these ultra-resistant plants would be vital for the future of pastures North the United States.
The scientists used data collected at the Konza Prairie Biological Station to conduct this study.
The grasslands are disappearing since the elimination of the bison
The assistant professor of biology Zak Ratajczak directed this research. He stated that bison have always an integral part of North American prairie fauna. However, since humans decided to colonize the Great Plains, more than 99% of them were decimated.
This mass elimination bison was too fast and the ecosystem has not had time to adapt. Many meadows have disappeared, giving way to large arid spaces. The other consequences of the disappearance of wild bison still remain largely unknown.
Meadows left as bison pasture widen
The data analyzed by Zak Ratajczak and his team concern the Flint Hills Ecoregion. Flint Hills is known as the only area which still houses vast grasslands tall grass. They did there graze bison and domestic cattle all year. They then studied the plant community composition and diversity of the region.
The researchers then noticed that the grasslands have widened and cover new spaces each year. Furthermore, the plant biodiversity of these pastures has increased markedly. Professor Ratajczak is convinced that the bison rewilding could have a largely positive impact on the conservation of biodiversity in the region.