To focus this conservation effort on regions of the state that have the highest likelihood of sustaining grassland bird populations on a long-term basis and where conservation efforts are most likely to be effective, we used data from the second New York Breeding Bird Atlas to identify regions supporting core populations of grassland birds. 26-43). 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. 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 model developed from large native herbivores (originally bison, but later other herbivores) was then transferred to domestic livestock within a rangeland setting [25,33]. 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. Challenges in the archaeology of native North America, Are ecosystems structured from the top-down or bottom-up? We hope to highlight that critical questions must be addressed prior to developing a conservation model that include the following. There is no single conservation model that successfully argues for a specific herbivore that is most appropriate for all objectives that are associated with rewilding or conserving grassland ecosystems. Saving meadows A call to protect, love and restore our meadows and species-rich grassland against the creeping normality that they no longer matter. The intent is to restore conditions back to a time prior to human influence on the fauna of North America. We declare we have no competing interests. meant to complement ongoing grasslands conservation efforts that identify priorities within each country. Grasslands Conservation. Fire was no longer used and fire suppression became a dominant culture that further led to fragmentation of continuous grasslands through woody plant encroachment . Efforts afoot to save South's disappearing grasslands. 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. Figure 5. Environmental science looks at how to conserve grasslands. 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. Bison versus cattle: are they ecologically synonymous? The property, referred to as Zen-Ridge, is 195 … Early calls for Pleistocene rewilding made grandiose suggestions of reintroducing mega-herbivores (or their surrogates) that went extinct not long after human arrival in North America. Further, lack of clear objectives and outcomes from the conservation community make the limited evidence of differences between these herbivores all but irrelevant for predictive purposes. Lastly, we discuss a perspective that is less focused on the question of which herbivore to include, but more focused on restoring the pattern and processes of herbivory on grassland landscapes [12,13]. In the case of APR, they recognized the importance of bison to Native American tribes and have attempted to engage Native American tribes. 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. Summary of differences and similarities between three conservation perspectives in terms of important aspects of the socio-ecological framework. Continue education efforts, particularly among farmers, on how to protect the soil and prevent soil … Prior to approximately 15 000 years ago, mega-herbivores were dominant on these landscapes until early humans contributed to their extinctions leading to their replacement by the modern American bison (Bison bison, hereafter bison) . small pastures intensively managed). ... Grasslands come in various forms - … I. The California Native Grasslands Association works to conserve grasslands throughout California through education, advocacy, research, and stewardship. 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. Figure 1. As conservation has developed as its own discipline, specific approaches, objectives and targets have also evolved. To date, grassland bird conservation efforts have primarily focused on restoring or preserving habitat to halt grassland bird population declines . However, few places exist where these conditions are present at scales relevant to any semblance of ecosystem restoration. GBT’s Conservation Achievements. Modern Native Americans are descendants of Siberians who crossed the Bering Land Bridge at least approximately 14 600 years ago . When humans first arrived, much of the Northern Great Plains would have been heavily influenced by glaciers. 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. 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. Conservation implications of native and introduced ungulates in a changing climate, Should heterogeneity be the basis for conservation? A third perspective focuses on restoring the pattern and processes of herbivory on grasslands and is less concerned about which herbivore is introduced to the landscape. 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 . 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. All models can be evaluated for their contribution to biodiversity and other goods and services in a matrix that is variable with different land use objectives (figure 5). bison) then this decision is simplified considerably. None of the models adequately consider the human dimensions of conservation and will probably struggle with policy, economics, threats and opportunities in the future. 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. 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. Hence, the Grasslands Programme team is concentrating its efforts on those sites that still have some biodiversity intact, where long-term conservation management can have the biggest impact. Furthermore, these perspectives seem to only superficially consider the role of fragmentation and climate change in influencing grassland patterns and processes. 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. It is difficult from the research literature to draw many consistent conclusions, but in general there are subtle differences in diets and feeding behaviour and some substantial differences in the use of complex landscapes associated with thermal heterogeneity . the human domain) rather than ecology of the species. Debates over the appropriate conservation model for grasslands have often focused on which species of herbivores should be the focus of restoration efforts. Therefore, rewilding plans that hinge almost exclusively on changing the herbivore within the modern landscape context are unlikely to produce intended outcomes without substantial management plans. 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]. Let us know! For example, cattle herds are typically associated with ranches that are managed for optimum commodity production. To purchase Ranney Ranch beef certified under the Audubon Conservation Ranching program, contact Skarsgard Farms at 505-681-4060 . Here we discuss three perspectives of herbivore-based conservation in North American grasslands. Example Action Step: Use the Grasslands Declaration as a jumping off point to develop a North American Grasslands Conservation Act which would serve as a multi-national grasslands conservation effort, under new or expanded legislative authority: a major initiative that each country and all eight sectors could and would rally behind. A matrix illustrating the complex conditions that can exist with all contributing to ecosystem functions and biodiversity on grasslands.Download figureOpen in new tabDownload powerPoint. 3. Specifically, by creating variable spatial patterns in vegetation structure that shift throughout the landscape and create uneven animal distribution and fire patterns that interact, livestock production may be enhanced by improved forage quality on burned areas while different wildlife species will use different vegetation structures thereby increasing biodiversity [50,56]. A new look at an old debate, Wildlife encounters by Lewis and Clark: a spatial analysis of interactions between native Americans and wildlife, Impact of an agri-environmental scheme on landscape patterns, Rotational grazing on rangelands: reconciliation of perception and experimental evidence, Application of the fire-grazing interaction to restore a shifting mosaic on tallgrass prairie, A hierarchical perspective to woody plant encroachment for conservation of prairie chickens, Foraging ecology of bison and cattle on a mixed prairie: implications for natural area management, Vegetation trends in tallgrass prairie from bison and cattle grazing, Ungulate preference for burned patches reveals strength of fire-grazing interaction. Enter your email address below and we will send you the reset instructions. As late as 2009, there were no peer-reviewed studies that directly compared bison and cattle on large complex landscapes (greater than 300 ha). We are implementing the BCA model and will be evaluating and assessing the project until at least 2012. 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]. Indeed, there are very few areas of designated wilderness in the grasslands. Protecting grassland ecosystems conserves biodiversity, and results in cleaner streams, less fertilizer runoff, increased numbers of pollinators for plants, and high carbon sequestration in soils. It is uncertain how herd size and structure would be regulated and how introduced species would interact with existing native species. Debates over the appropriate conservation model for grasslands have often focused on which species of herbivores should be the focus of restoration efforts. 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. Additionally, the current and impending threat of major shifts in climate is a primary limitation to most models that are focused on using the past for target conditions. Conservation is clearly a human endeavour that is critically dependent on cultural values, policy, economics and other aspects of social sciences. Many conservation models have been suggested and we present three that have been proposed for conservation of North American grasslands: (i) Pleistocene rewilding , (ii) bison restoration  and (iii) conservation of pattern and process . 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. Figure 5. 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. What is the role of humans in the model system that is our conservation target? )Download figureOpen in new tabDownload powerPoint, Figure 4. Effects of black-tailed prairie dogs on intraseasonal aboveground plant biomass and nutrient dynamics and plant species diversity, Vegetation of prairie dog colonies and non-colonized shortgrass prairie, Conservation of black-tailed prairie dogs (. Farmers and ranchers use grasslands to graze animals such as cattle and sheep. While all conservation perspectives partly address the three domains, they all fall short in key areas. As stated in Holling , any conservation framework should be (i) as simple as possible, but not too simple; (ii) dynamic and prescriptive, not static and descriptive; and (iii) able to embrace uncertainty and unpredictability. First, we consider the Pleistocene rewilding perspective that suggests early humans contributed to the demise of mega-fauna that were important to the evolution and development of many of the grasslands in North America [9,10]. Allowing herd animals to inhabit these open grasslands inevitably leads to some environmental damage. 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 . 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 . Figure 4. 2002) and conservation efforts have been directed to maintaining existing areas of these habitats. Multiple species contributed to these complex patterns that occurred across large areas that were very heterogeneous in soils, topography and climate. First, the Pleistocene rewilding perspective is based upon the idea that early humans contributed to the demise of megafauna that were important to the evolution and development of many of North America's grasslands; therefore, their aim of restoration is rewilding of landscapes to pre-human times. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change’. Facilitate the development of the JV8 Initiative, a high-level, overarching, trinational effort for Central Grassland conservation Drive the creation and implementation of the JV8 Strategy and coordinate across Joint Venture conservation efforts to scale-up actions that address causes of declining grassland bird populations, with an emphasis on design and implementation of conservation actions For this paper, we focus on describing three primary perspectives of herbivore-based conservation of North American grasslands that have been proposed and discuss the challenges of incorporating these perspectives in future grassland conservation efforts. If the focus is specifically conservation for an individual species (e.g. Diverse herbivores can alter the impacts on woody plant encroachment and plant diversity because of diverse foraging behaviour . The California Native Grasslands Association works to conserve grasslands throughout California through education, advocacy, research, and stewardship. ), Conservation, rewilding, restoration and degradation of ecosystems are all human endeavours and any model or perspective that insufficiently addresses this reality will face insurmountable challenges. Poschlod & Bonn 1998, Eriksson et al. 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]. The three perspectives we present all have differing objectives. Our Objectives: Raise awareness about the need for increased conservation and protection of temperate grasslands. Additionally, cattle ranches often use general animal husbandry practices (e.g. Many of the early conservation efforts on grasslands were focused on reducing intense grazing and creating more moderate and uniform grasslands. Allowing herd animals to inhabit these open grasslands inevitably leads to some environmental damage. bison versus cattle) and more focused on developing management approaches that can maintain agricultural production and simultaneously enhance biodiversity. A vision for grassland conservation will help define priorities for action, though some initial steps are appropriate regardless of ultimate goals and can illuminate the goal-setting process. In a coordinated effort between Missouri and Iowa, we One of the focuses of climate science has been to understand the nature of the balance needed to promote a healthy temperate biome. For APR, bison is a primary focus of their conservation vision but they recognize the importance of restoring heterogeneity with fire and other disturbances, such as prairie dogs. Additionally, there is little recognition of landscape complexity or dynamics. In fact, the widespread changes in the distribution and abundance of small herbivores have probably led to more significant plant community change than have changes in large herbivores. 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). European settlement fragmented large landscapes, introduced cultivation and domestic livestock and concomitantly reduced fires. Priorities were … Open spaces are being preserved more today and grasslands are a consideration for all development projects. 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. Simplified conceptual model for North American grasslands indicating the major changes to socio-ecological structure of grassland ecosystems at different times. The dominance of American bison coincided with an increase in human populations and increased use of fire, which was the primary landscape management tool for many indigenous people [17,18]. More recently, agricultural policy has promoted the conversion of marginal cropland back to grassland, but these landscapes remain highly fragmented  and the vast majority of many of these grasslands, such as the Great Plains, remain privately owned and managed for agriculture and energy development. 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. 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]. The GPCA selection process relied primarily upon two main components: 1) Pre-workshop integration of ca. NGC is dedicated to promoting grassland conservation by empowering local people and launching careers in conservation. Here we discuss three perspectives of herbivore-based conservation in North American grasslands. The second model is focused on restoring American bison to grasslands and includes a full array of bison managers with objectives ranging from food production to variable versions of rewilding . A primary practical question of the conservation community has been: which herbivore is best for restoration? The Grasslands Programme team’s goal is to get all 33 pilot sites declared formally either as ‘nature reserves’ or as ‘protected environments’ under the Protected Areas Act. This is not to say that which herbivore species are included on a landscape is not an important decision in conservation planning of grasslands. 4. 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. If you’re one of the thousands of folks who have visited the Natural Resources building at Husker Harvest Days , you may have picked up a packet of the Native Prairie or Pollinators seed from the NRDs. The conservation approach was developed through studying bison and other herbivore interactions with fire and the resulting heterogeneity in structure that influences biodiversity . The effects of other species of small mammals are not as well studied, but have probably had major effects on grassland landscapes. Our recent understanding of the effects of land management suggests that herbivores can be used to create heterogeneity and that biodiversity of these landscapes is highly dependent on spatial patterns that include areas that have been heavily grazed and areas with little or no grazing. Initially, much of agriculture was subsistence-based but in the first half of the 1900s, industrial agriculture developed. 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. Eventually, agricultural intensification occurred and large areas were settled and many of the grasslands were cultivated. Until the near extirpation of bison in the late 1800s, they were keystone herbivores within the Great Plains, sharing complex landscapes with other herbivores, predators and humans for nearly 10 000 years [4,6,7]. Conceptual conservation models range in perspectives from those that are integrated with current conditions to perspectives that are naive to current landscapes and based on retrospective target conditions that are uncertain at best. 2. Plant invasions or fire policy: which has altered fire behavior more in tallgrass prairie? 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Program, contact Skarsgard Farms at 505-681-4060 variable levels of control in terms of important aspects the! Theme issue ‘ Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change ’, stocker steers ) land... But their grassland conservation efforts and acceptance remain a challenge Pacific Northwest edited by Elisabeth S. Bakker and Svenning! Initiatives, and stewardship benefit to the local economy through tourism Saskatchewan as a species... On which species of herbivores should be the focus of the socio-ecological framework for conservation be. To varying management plans ( e.g enable the focusing of policy and protection of temperate grasslands first! Of North America, are ecosystems structured from the top-down or bottom-up conservation area an... Acceptance remain a challenge of Oklahoma, USA, combines the bison rewilding perspective considers American bison keystone! This is even grassland conservation efforts from these studies in the future grass dominance would been. Socio-Ecological context [ 2,30,31 ] grassland to the degree that it can ’ t naturally!
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