What are some of the things that threaten prairies and contribute to their loss or destruction?

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“Once this prairie covered millions of acres; now only isolated remnants exist. The homesteaders saw it as a nuisance to be replaced as soon as possible with crops that paid their way.”

- National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, 1995. http://www.beatricene.com/homestead/prairie.html


Although overgrazing and cultivation were the most dramatic disruptions of the natural prairie ecosystem, there have been a number of simultaneously occurring phenomena which have contributed to the destruction of all but a few isolated prairie relicts, and to the degeneration of many of these surviving remnants

Text:http://www.seedsource.com/ medicine/history3.htm

Image:http://www.marquette.edu/library/ neh/manessn/west_files/farming.jpg


Plowing a field



Prairie fire



Another very significant early disturbance was the settlers' natural desire to eliminate fires. Periodic prairie fires had for centuries kept woody species to a minimum and had cleared the ground of dead vegetation, enabling the tall grasses to thrive and creating new opportunities for secondary and tertiary grasses and forbs to establish themselves. Once the fires were eliminated, a rapid invasion of woody plants followed

Text: http://www.seedsource.com/medicine/history3.htm
Image: http://alphabetilately.com/Trains/CandI-Prairie-Fires.jpg


The loss of prairies to agricultural conversion, urbanization, and inadequate management is damaging habitat and putting wildlife at risk. In turn this will take a toll on outdoor recreation opportunities that support many local communities across the state.

According to the report "The American Prairie: Going, Going, Gone?" there is a 99 percent decline in tallgrass prairie and a 68 percent decline in mixed-grass prairie from historic acreage. Prairie grasslands are now considered North America's most endangered ecosystem.

Text: http://www.ndwf.org/naturalresourceissues.htm
Image: http://biology.usgs.gov/s+t/images/f071w01.jpg


Butterflies on Coneflower



he overwhelming destruction of prairie habitat has had disastrous consequences for prairie-specialist butterflies, not just because of the outright loss of appropriate living space but also because of habitat fragmentation. Because prairie-specialist butterflies are rarely encountered outside of thesefragmented prairie patches, populations at different sites may have minimal gene flow and are rarely able to recolonize sites of local extinctions. For example, the regal fritillary is the most widespread prairie butterfly species, but it requires larger habitat patches or connected networks of habitat patches to maintain populations. The arogos skipper (Atrytone arogos iowa) and ottoe skipper (Hesperia ottoe) also occur widely in the prairie biome but are more restricted in their habitat requirements, resulting in more localized and spotty distributions. The Dakota skipper and poweshiek skipper (Oarisma poweshiek) are most restricted in range, occurring only in northern prairie, and have further habitat restrictions within that range. As a result, the northern Midwest (northwestern Iowa, western Minnesota, and the eastern Dakotas) is the region where tall-grass prairie conservation has the most potential





Grazing areas have often been subject to spraying with herbicides to kill broadleaf plants in the misguided belief that pure grass stands make better forage for cattle. This greatly reduces the plant biodiversity of the prairie, which though dominated by grasses, contains literally hundreds of other, non-grass species. Speaking of pesticides, insecticide drift from adjacent crop fields has probably caused losses of pollinators and other prairie insects, though this is not well documented. Native wildlife, especially predators and large native grazers, have been displaced, shot or poisoned to make way for domestic grazing herds.



Text: http://www.reflectiveimages.com/PrairieConcerns.htm
Image: http://www.wild4raptors.com/falcon/pfalcon1.jpg

Created by Brittney Blankenship, Marie Bradshaw, Mary Hinkle, and Rachel Schaub