These projects are perfect ‘starter’ conservation actions for new efforts. A historic compromise among key conservation and agricultural interest groups will establish workable soil and wetland conservation requirements for subsidies on crop insurance premiums. While this approach acknowledges the social and cultural domain, like most other approaches it does not suggest specific policies or land management concerns that would be required to rewild large landscapes with free-roaming herds of bison. Humans are, therefore, part of the plan and APR provides an example of a tentatively successful restoration of bison to large but limited areas. Farmers and ranchers use grasslands to graze animals such as cattle and sheep. conservation priorities for streams and grasslands of the Upper Midwest. Rotational grazing requires that farmers and ranchers allow their herd animals to graze an area for only a short time and then move (or rotate) them into a different area. Prairie-Chickens and other grassland birds (Fitzgerald and Pashley 2000), and evaluation studies of BCA model concepts (J. Herkert, unpubl. Management of these landscapes transitioned from hunter–gatherers to subsistence farming and eventually industrial agriculture. Generalizations are challenging because the social changes were complex and heterogeneous in space and time, but the most significant changes started when Europeans began exploring and eventually settling North America resulting in a blend of cultural contact and colonialism [20]. Rewilding, like restoration, has long struggled with the importance of identifying target conditions that are desirable and monitoring approaches that can verify progress towards their goals. Is there a grassland near you that needs help? Most conservationists recognized the role of humans in the past century or two in contributing to the loss and degradation of grasslands but there is less recognition of the importance of humans in the management of these landscapes prior to European settlement. Rather, the intent is to maintain as much biodiversity as possible by restoring disturbance processes and patterns in ways that allow humans to meet current and future needs from the landscape. In order for bison to be substantially different from domestic livestock, they need to interact with large landscapes where they can respond to heterogeneity associated with topo-edaphic conditions, complex patterns of fire and other important species like prairie dogs [2,27]. The vast and complex landscapes that contained diverse herbivores have in most places been replaced by fragmented agricultural lands where domestic cattle are the dominant grazers on remnant grasslands. The outlined solutions include policy reform, industry-led initiatives, and targeted scientific efforts, such as research into grassland-based products like cellulosic biofuels. The future of conservation is dependent on the development of many forward-focused conservation models that better integrate societal, economic and policy objectives and recognize that humans are an integral part of ecosystems that are highly dynamic in space and time with a changing climate. meant to complement ongoing grasslands conservation efforts that identify priorities within each country. Human culture in the North American Great Plains has been variable in space and time but generally transitioned from mostly hunter–gatherers to European settlers who were largely focused on subsistence agriculture. When humans first arrived, much of the Northern Great Plains would have been heavily influenced by glaciers. Production/commodity systems with bison are often managed in a way similar to cattle systems, allowing for effective comparison in that simplified environment. GBT’s Conservation Achievements. This Grassland Conservation Plan for Prairie Grouse, coordinated by the North American Grouse Partnership, represents the collective efforts and expertise of numerous grassland and prairie grouse experts in developing habitat prioritizations that are needed to sustain grouse and other grassland species into the future. Background information and definitions. Environmental science looks at how to conserve grasslands. Here we discuss three perspectives of herbivore-based conservation in North American grasslands. 26-43). Second, the bison rewilding perspective considers American bison a keystone herbivore that is culturally and ecologically important to North American grasslands. In 2000, The Nature Conservancy launched the Merced Grasslands Project, which will eventually protect at least 60,000 acres of grasslands. Bison may be managed as production herds as well, but are also managed as conservation-focused herds on preserves or refuges. Summary of differences and similarities between three conservation perspectives in terms of important aspects of the socio-ecological framework. Debates over the appropriate conservation model for grasslands have often focused on which species of herbivores should be the focus of restoration efforts. There are several conservation efforts underway today: 1. In fact, humans have played a significant role in the development, maintenance and degradation of North American grasslands for over 10 000 years (figure 2). Additionally, there is little recognition of landscape complexity or dynamics. Diverse herbivores can alter the impacts on woody plant encroachment and plant diversity because of diverse foraging behaviour [34]. UW-Madison: New research highlights need for grassland conservation efforts, agriculture support October 29, 2020 MADISON – For farmers struggling against economic forces and doing everything they can to keep afloat, grassland biodiversity may be the last thing they want to worry about. cow-calf, stocker steers) and the sex ratio is often highly skewed depending on the objective. The GPCA selection process relied primarily upon two main components: 1) Pre-workshop integration of ca. Conservation groups, agencies and private land-owners have biases towards native or domestic herbivores despite the fact that studies have demonstrated that similar responses in biodiversity can be achieved by cattle and bison as long as both species are allowed to interact with heterogeneous fire patterns [12,33]. data). Over the past 500 years, it is difficult to disentangle the biophysical changes in North America from the cultural changes (figure 2). Conservation of North American grasslands, including restoring natural disturbance regimes and rewilding landscapes with mega-herbivores or their surrogates, has been a popular topic in ecology [1,2]. We evaluate each of these three conservation perspectives in terms of a framework that includes a human domain, an herbivore domain and a biophysical domain. Grassland bird response to fire and grazing, Herbivore species and grazing intensity regulate community composition and an encroaching woody plant in semi-arid rangeland, Small-mammal regulation of vegetation structure in a temperate savanna, Plant-herbivore interactions in a North American mixed-grass prairie. This can mean that even fire-adapted plants (such as some pines and palms) are killed. Aso Grassland Conservation Center. “You can have an ancient grassland, thousands of years old, preserved in some little hay meadow that was never planted,” he said. Unfortunately, many other changes were concomitant with the replacement of native with domestic herbivores (e.g. Before discussing the conservation perspectives, we briefly describe the types of changes that have occurred in the three domains (human, biophysical and herbivore) over the past 15 000 years in North American grasslands to highlight the challenges of restoring/rewilding these landscapes. Enter your email address below and we will send you the reset instructions. Generally speaking, grasslands, or rangelands, as they’re sometimes called, are open areas without trees. The proposed changes in the bill would promote conservation practices on working lands, reduce the likelihood of grassland conversion to cropland, and ensure that soil and wetlands conservation are part of the farm safety net. The intent is to restore conditions back to a time prior to human influence on the fauna of North America. Rewilding, in its purest sense, is a naive idea that can never be fully achieved on fragmented landscapes in our modern world, but it may be a useful concept to illustrate the importance of conservation goals and objectives and could be integrated into a comprehensive conservation approach on grasslands of North America and beyond. These grassy ecosystems are also key players in the global carbon cycle. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to reset your password. UW-Madison: New research highlights need for grassland conservation efforts, agriculture support October 29, 2020 MADISON – For farmers struggling against economic forces and doing everything they can to keep afloat, grassland biodiversity may be the last thing they want to worry about. Much of the discussion around the most appropriate approach has focused on the importance of large herbivores, as well as other disturbances in the evolution and development of flora and fauna on these landscapes [3,4]. This type of operation commonly relies on herds where animals are separated for most of the year on the basis of sex and age (e.g. 1. Is there a grassland near you that needs help? American Bird Conservation Initiative & U.S. Committee, 2013). Environmental events, such as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and social policies influencing agricultural economics and production resulted in land use and population dynamics that included land abandonment and declining human populations in some regions that were formerly dominated by grasslands. While these ideas are engaging to many and stimulate excitement, they are usually based on a romantic objective of restoring something long lost and probably impossible to restore. Poschlod & Bonn 1998, Eriksson et al. Email: The conservation approach was developed through studying bison and other herbivore interactions with fire and the resulting heterogeneity in structure that influences biodiversity [12]. A matrix illustrating the complex conditions that can exist with all contributing to ecosystem functions and biodiversity on grasslands. supplemental feeding and minerals) and land management practices that homogenize the landscape. Most of the remaining grasslands of North America are privately owned and there is limited consideration in the Pleistocene rewilding approach of the ownership of these lands in the model. Endangered plants and animals are having their habitats more vigorously protected. While grassland conservation has been well-studied, little is known about how monarchs interact with these areas, or how planting and management practices impact the quality of the habitat for monarchs. Specifically, they fail to recognize that past, current and future humans are intimately linked to grassland patterns and processes and will continue to play a role in structuring grasslands. In the case of APR, they recognized the importance of bison to Native American tribes and have attempted to engage Native American tribes. Species that have more of a selective foraging behaviour that focuses on woody plants can be very important to grassland conservation by altering woody plant encroachment and diversity even if they are not dominant [34]. A focus on a dominant herbivore may also ignore the importance of secondary herbivores that may have much different impacts on landscapes because of differing foraging behaviours. Any differences between these species, or potentially other species, may be overwhelmed by differences in management styles that often accompany them and are associated with the human domain (figure 3) [27,29]. The mission of the Western Grassland Initiative is to serve as the primary contributor to the implementation of conservation and management actions, through partnerships and cooperative efforts, resulting in improved species status, grassland habitats, and recreational opportunities for grassland dependent species across North America. A fundamental objective of our focus on the three ecological perspectives of grassland conservation is to highlight the need of a more integrated socio-ecological approach for restoration and conservation of grasslands that includes clearly stated objectives and includes the human, biophysical and herbivore domains (figure 1). Overgrazing is when herd animals consume the vegetation cover of a grassland to the degree that it can’t be naturally replenished. Any discussions and conservation strategies that focus solely on dominant large herbivores of the past and downplay the importance of the human domain or the broader biophysical domain (not to mention other less charismatic herbivores) are violating all of these suggestions. Theme issue ‘Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change’ organized and edited by Elisabeth S. Bakker and Jens-Christian Svenning. As such, we argue that future grassland conservation efforts must depend on the development of a model that better integrates societal, economic and policy objectives and recognizes climate change, fragmentation and humans as an integral part of these ecosystems.This article is part of the theme issue 'Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change'. While grassland conservation has been well-studied, little is known about how monarchs interact with these areas, or how planting and management practices impact the quality of the habitat for monarchs. As such, we argue that future grassland conservation efforts must depend on the development of a model that better integrates societal, economic and policy objectives and recognizes climate change, fragmentation and humans as an integral part of these ecosystems.This article is part of the theme issue 'Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change'. Humans can be considered within this model or they can be involved through making management decisions that modify both herbivore and environmental factors.Download figureOpen in new tabDownload powerPoint. A simplistic organizational framework to evaluate the socio-ecological conservation of North American grasslands. Much of the original justification was not merely based on conservation of bison, but largely on the economic and social upheavals that have occurred on North American grasslands since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Conservation of America’s Grasslands. The third model, called conservation of pattern and process, lacks the grandiose vision of the previous models, and instead is focused on pragmatically restoring pattern and processes of grasslands through heterogeneity-based management of contemporary landscapes [13]. The American bison became a dominant large herbivore because of a complex interaction with fire (pyric herbivory), humans, predators, other herbivores and the regionally variable climate (figure 3) [12,19]. the human domain) rather than ecology of the species. Late Quaternary temperature record from buried soils of the North American Great Plains, Late Quaternary vegetation and climate change in Central Texas based on the isotopic composition of organic carbon, Grassland vegetation in the southern Great Plains during the last glacial maximum, Changes in fire regimes since the Last Glacial Maximum: an assessment based on a global synthesis and analysis of charcoal data, Pyric-herbivory and cattle performance in grassland ecosystems. Let us know! Fire was no longer used and fire suppression became a dominant culture that further led to fragmentation of continuous grasslands through woody plant encroachment [26]. )Download figureOpen in new tabDownload powerPoint, Figure 1. Since the arrival of humans on the North American continent, the biophysical environment has changed from near-peak glaciation approximately 20 000 years ago to our current climate with considerable variation in between. Sometime after human arrival, grassland landscapes changed dramatically as human use of fire became important, the climate warmed, and many species of dominant large herbivores were lost [17]. In the past, the first two perspectives have been described as unlikely approaches to grassland conservation, but the progress of APR suggests that some visionary ideas may be locally important because cultural limitations change and there is considerable uncertainty in the future. The three perspectives we present all have differing objectives. Finally, we propose some critical considerations for future conservation efforts of North American grasslands and include some examples of perspectives that have been applied. Simplified conceptual model for North American grasslands indicating the major changes to socio-ecological structure of grassland ecosystems at different times. A simplistic organizational framework to evaluate the socio-ecological conservation of North American grasslands. (Online version in colour. 2. There are examples where variations of this approach are being applied, such as the American Prairie Reserve (APR) in Montana, USA, where a vision of restoring a very large landscape and allowing bison to roam freely is a conservation goal. Shifts from C3 to C4 grass dominance would have a substantial influence of altering critical features associated with forage quality and quantity. Farmers and ranchers use grasslands to graze animals such as cattle and sheep. Conservation efforts have worked locally on restoring previously cultivated lands [ 23] and restoring fire regimes [ 46 ], but across the entire Great Plains, grassland fragmentation has continued through increases in energy development and woody plant encroachment and remains the primary limitation in conservation or rewilding of grasslands [ 26, 47 ]. It is only through answering each of these questions that we can develop specific and explicit conservation objectives that will lead to successful conservation strategies for North American grasslands. In other words, many of the observed differences between species may in fact be largely due to varying management plans (e.g. Similarly, climate projections, as well as land use changes, suggest that these landscapes will become more different from their pre-historical conditions over the next century. Research in the Great Plains indicates that some segments of the public have a strong aversion to fundamental aspects of biodiversity, such as heterogeneity and diversity of plants [58]. 3. Studies of management that promotes heterogeneity indicate that grazing of bison or domestic livestock can be managed for restoring and enhancing biodiversity while maintaining profitable levels of animal production [12,25,26]. While differences and similarities between bison and cattle may exist (or for any other species as well), the focus on these differences could be a distraction from a conservation perspective if we fail to evaluate the ecological effects of the two species. Native grassland and pollinator habitat conservation is vital to agriculture and to Nebraska wildlife. )Download figureOpen in new tabDownload powerPoint, Figure 4. More recently, agricultural policy has promoted the conversion of marginal cropland back to grassland, but these landscapes remain highly fragmented [23] and the vast majority of many of these grasslands, such as the Great Plains, remain privately owned and managed for agriculture and energy development. WWF’s advocacy on the Farm Bill aims to help keep the grasslands where they are, protect wetlands, and give the communities of the northern Great Plains a fighting chance. This specifically provides travel corridors and bedding cover … However, if the focus is on conservation of a landscape and other grassland-associated taxa, such as plants, birds and arthropods, the dominant species of herbivore may be less important. (Online version in colour. The climate fluctuated substantially over the past 10 000 years including warm and cool periods with a general trend of warming that has been accelerated over the past 100 years from anthropogenic climate change [19,41]. They have restored free-roaming bison and random anthropogenic fires on a large landscape, but are also encouraging research and outreach on developing conservation approaches for surrounding ranchers to promote a similar heterogeneous landscape with domestic livestock [12]. Integrating the support for these and other perspectives into a comprehensive, forward-looking socio-ecological framework that is capable of preparing for climate change should be the goal of all conservationists. The demise of these large mammals occurred simultaneously with changes in climate that resulted in a complex interaction that ultimately resulted in the dominance of smaller herbivores in North America [5]. In the early 1980s, the Flying M Ranches donated two conservation easements to The Nature Conservancy, protecting 5,000 acres, and leading the effort to protect the Merced grasslands. Local management or herbivore modifications will have minimal influences on highly fragmented landscapes, while on large landscapes these factors can be important. Indeed, there are very few areas of designated wilderness in the grasslands. Short of a fairly recent proposal to reintroduce surrogates to mega-herbivores and the Pleistocene rewilding, the majority of the discussion is focused on the debate about the importance of bison versus domestic cattle on conservation landscapes. We own and manage 78 acres in the heart of the IBA at the site of our our Alfred Z. Solomon Grassland … Initially, much of agriculture was subsistence-based but in the first half of the 1900s, industrial agriculture developed. In particular, conservation of not only grasslands, but all ecosystems, requires a perspective that recognizes that these environments are highly variable in space and time such that the complexity of the system can overwhelm our understanding of the important drivers of patterns and processes in these ecosystems [1,8]. Furthermore, these perspectives seem to only superficially consider the role of fragmentation and climate change in influencing grassland patterns and processes. Conservation of remaining landscapes is critical to global biodiversity and will be dependent on multiple models that range from the attempt to restore wilderness to conservation-based management on privately owned landscapes that are agriculturally based. In order for the WGFD to successfully implement large-scale grassland conservation efforts, it September 2006 2 Wyoming Game and Fish Department. For the first time, consumers are now able to contribute to grassland conservation efforts through their fork by selectively purchasing beef from Audubon-certified farms and ranches, like Ranney Ranch. Identifying the most appropriate framework for restoring grasslands is dependent on the objectives of restoration, which is inherently determined by human priorities. Perspectives on grassland conservation efforts: should we rewild to the past or conserve for the future? The negative impact of climate change and invasive species is predicted to be stronger in the future. Therefore, any discussion of rewilding that does not fully account for the role of humans, including hunting and fire, in shaping plant and animal assemblages is grossly incomplete and naive. The current bison restoration approach is to consider regional socio-economics and restore bison to as much of its historical distribution as is culturally, socially and ecologically possible [11]. Additionally, cattle ranches often use general animal husbandry practices (e.g. Great Grasslands: Why sustainable ... At the same time, a “working lands” approach must be embraced to support conservation and protection of global grasslands for future generations, and to ensure the livelihoods, ... We will also focus on scaling up landscape-level efforts to protect, better manage, and restore grassland biomes. A recent survey of literature (2009) identified 87 papers that compared bison with cattle, yet only nine focused on the comparison in an ecological context and only two attempted to control other socio-ecological factors [27–29]. Some conservation approaches have focused on combining components from several of these perspectives. I. This European dominance eventually transitioned to industrial agricultural landscapes where grasslands were small remnants of their historical vastness. We do believe that it is time to acknowledge humans as a central part of ecosystems that can lead to conservation or degradation of grassland and other systems. These bold visions have largely been unencumbered by conservationists who are practically constrained to the realism of concerns of how the land will ultimately be managed in the future. Figure 2. Recent and future climate change, increasing human population and land fragmentation suggest that this model is largely an academic discussion that has limited practical value. Grasslands, including conservation areas, provide some of the largest remaining tracts of breeding habitat available to monarchs. Should rewilding focus on dominant herbivores or plant communities or ecological processes? Species-rich, semi-natural grasslands have declined drastically in Europe over the last 100 years (e.g. Grasslands are an important ecosystem that people use (and sometimes abuse) for the resources they provide. In a coordinated effort between Missouri and Iowa, we Ongoing Conservation Efforts. These success stories suggest that bison rewilding and conservation of pattern and process perspectives can be integrated to develop a socio-ecological approach that can be achieved across fairly large areas. We do not intend to develop a comprehensive socio-ecological framework for conservation of grasslands and we question whether a single framework is even appropriate. Since then, several studies have attempted the comparison with variable levels of control in terms of the socio-ecological context [2,30,31]. Programs such as The Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative has launched global initiatives and action plans designed to raise awareness for protecting grasslands and to begin conservation efforts in North and South America, Russia, Mongolia, and China. These landscapes are often heavily cross-fenced with extensive water development and potentially managed to increase the dominance of a few key forage species [13]. Wild herbivores that are unmanaged require heterogeneity to persist and as parcel size gets smaller this heterogeneity becomes more important [26,51,52]. bison versus cattle) and more focused on developing management approaches that can maintain agricultural production and simultaneously enhance biodiversity. Allowing herd animals to inhabit these open grasslands inevitably leads to some environmental damage. The more practical approach of conservation of pattern and process seems more likely to achieve conservation goals across many fragmented landscapes in the near term because it is compatible with the current human culture of livestock and agriculture. Timeline of the numerous changes that have occurred on the socio-ecological landscape of the North American Great Plains. Grasslands Conservation. Are there models that are not appropriate? Conservation efforts should develop specific objectives within a socio-ecological framework that can include monitoring and adaptive management based on targets. Grassland Conservation and Management 1 CTAP SC ien C e & eC o l o g i C A l Po l i C y PA P e r Grassland Conservation and Management Once the dominant ecosystem in Illinois, prairie is largely forgotten and almost non-existent in our agricultural and urbanized landscape. Many land owners have learned to manage against many of the goals that conservationists find important even when those goals may be compatible with their land management objectives. What is the role of humans in the model system that is our conservation target? Suggesting that we restore large herbivores or their surrogates (while ignoring small herbivores) into a novel plant community, a novel climate and a novel human population has extremely limited application potential. grasslands provide habitat for pollinators, small mammals, grassland birds and raptors, like the American kestrel. Efforts afoot to save South's disappearing grasslands In the early 2000s, a harvest of pine trees on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau led to a remarkable discovery