They have often been an afterthought in conservation, if they were even thought of at all. Natural and semi-natural grasslands were integrated into agricultural regimes and grazing animals became intensively managed with a goal of promoting homogeneous vegetation that was often inaccurately perceived to be superior for livestock production [24,45]. There are limited examples of conservation groups that have at least identified specific goals and developed monitoring methods to evaluate progress towards their goal [55]. Production/commodity systems with bison are often managed in a way similar to cattle systems, allowing for effective comparison in that simplified environment. 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. As conservation has developed as its own discipline, specific approaches, objectives and targets have also evolved. Conservation of pattern and process was developed in a rangeland management context to integrate conservation objectives into our current land use and cultural networks but it lacks the objective of restoring the Great Plains to historic time periods. Viewpoint: the black-tailed prairie dog – headed for extinction? 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. 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. (Online version in colour. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change’. Additionally, they have recognized the importance of engaging the local community in their vision, but their perceptions and acceptance remain a challenge. 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. It is uncertain how herd size and structure would be regulated and how introduced species would interact with existing native species. Figure 1. This approach to conservation may loosely recognize that landscapes are spatially and temporally dynamic and largely dependent upon people, but they generally fall short of incorporating these concepts into any semblance of a workable plan [10]. A simplistic organizational framework to evaluate the socio-ecological conservation of North American grasslands. Interestingly, APR views these large landscapes inhabited by free-roaming bison as a potential economic benefit to the local economy through tourism. We own and manage 78 acres in the heart of the IBA at the site of our our Alfred Z. Solomon Grassland … A major focus of the conservation community has been on the importance of selecting the appropriate dominant herbivore species [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. This process of changing previously fertile or useful land into a desert is called desertification. 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). 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. 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. Is there a grassland near you that needs help? This rotation from one grazing spot to another mimics the natural process of herd animals grazing a landscape and allows the patches of grassland to recover before the animals return to graze them. 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. Species-rich, semi-natural grasslands have declined drastically in Europe over the last 100 years (e.g. 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. 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 complexity of land ownership and management of the lands appears to be left to fate with some limited discussions of national parks and their associated economic opportunities and challenges. 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. There are several critical factors that are absent or limited by all of these perspectives and will probably limit their success. Timeline of the numerous changes that have occurred on the socio-ecological landscape of the North American Great Plains. Conservation of America’s Grasslands. Challenges in the archaeology of native North America, Are ecosystems structured from the top-down or bottom-up? Our Objectives: Raise awareness about the need for increased conservation and protection of temperate grasslands. Grasslands are an important ecosystem that people use (and sometimes abuse) for the resources they provide. 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. The conservation area is an easement program that will be part of a landscape-scale, strategic habitat conservation effort. In all cases, a primary goal is putting together the broken pieces of a previously fragmented landscape and, without this first step, other efforts will have limited benefits for conservation of grasslands [26]. Shifts from C3 to C4 grass dominance would have a substantial influence of altering critical features associated with forage quality and quantity. Fencing drainages to keep cattle out. The GPCA selection process relied primarily upon two main components: 1) Pre-workshop integration of ca. As stated in Holling [8], 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. To date, grassland bird conservation efforts have primarily focused on restoring or preserving habitat to halt grassland bird population declines . Humans are, therefore, part of the plan and APR provides an example of a tentatively successful restoration of bison to large but limited areas. 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. Management of these landscapes transitioned from hunter–gatherers to subsistence farming and eventually industrial agriculture. By evaluating the dynamics within these domains, we stress the importance of explicitly stating conservation objectives and targets. A primary practical question of the conservation community has been: which herbivore is best for restoration? Enter your email address below and we will send you the reset instructions. Early Clovis hunters are most often associated with the extirpation of 35 genera of large mammals in North America at approximately 11 000 years ago [15,16]. supplemental feeding and minerals) and land management practices that homogenize the landscape. Finally, we propose some critical considerations for future conservation efforts of North American grasslands and include some examples of perspectives that have been applied. ), 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. Is the conservation objective focused on biodiversity, maintaining ecosystem functions or providing societal goods and services? 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. Clear differences in the life history of these species suggest that differences could be expected. Grasslands are declining worldwide and many of the grassland obligate species that remain are declining [48–50]. These projects are perfect ‘starter’ conservation actions for new efforts. However, few places exist where these conditions are present at scales relevant to any semblance of ecosystem restoration. 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. In response to many of the agricultural and land use changes, the human endeavour of conservation started in the mid-1900s with a utilitarian perspective prevalent through much of the 1900s [1,13]. Priorities were … 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. After animals remove the vegetation by overgrazing, grasslands are susceptible to … Over 90% of the breeding distribution of seven obligate grassland‐breeding birds is on private lands, including species such as the Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) whose populations are in steep decline, making conservation efforts a top priority (North American Bird Conservation Initiative & U.S. Committee, 2013). This approach is less focused on the specific herbivore (e.g. Conclusions from these studies in the context of conservation and rewilding are difficult and often infused with dogma and casual observations. Despite their importance, tropical grasslands and savannas tend to be ignored or … 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. Indeed, there are very few areas of designated wilderness in the grasslands. 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. will need to identify areas where private landowners and the WGFD have similar interests, and build upon those opportunities. 3. Additionally, cattle ranches often use general animal husbandry practices (e.g. Small conservation areas can provide local refugia for biodiversity but they are incapable of restoring pattern and processes that are critical to conservation at relevant scales. 120 GIS data layers, including known grasslands priority-setting initiatives, and a small pastures intensively managed). The role of herbivores in Great Plains conservation: comparative ecology of bison and cattle behavior, Rise of the grassland biome, central North America, Evolution and origin of the Central Grassland of North America: climate, fire, and mammalian grazers, Late Quaternary bison diminution on the Great Plains of North America: evaluating the role of human hunting versus climate change, The keystone role of bison in North American tallgrass prairie, Understanding the complexity of economic, ecological, and social systems, Pleistocene rewilding: an optimistic agenda for 21st century conservation, The ecological future of the North American bison: conceiving long-term large-scale conservation of wildlife, Pyric herbivory: rewilding landscapes through the recoupling of fire and grazing, Conservation of pattern and process: developing an alternative paradigm for rangeland management, Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans, Mammalian extinctions in the late Pleistocene of Northern Eurasia and North America, Fire and the Miocene expansion of C4 grasslands, Late Quaternary environmental change inferred from phytoliths and other soil-related proxies: case studies from the central and southern Great Plains, USA, Culture contact or colonialism? Other important reasons of decline in grassland diversity are habitat loss and altered site conditions. One of the greatest challenges of rewilding and grassland conservation is accounting for and incorporating the complexity that occurs in socio-ecological systems. “You can have an ancient grassland, thousands of years old, preserved in some little hay meadow that was never planted,” he said. 26-43). Over the past 500 years, it is difficult to disentangle the biophysical changes in North America from the cultural changes (figure 2). 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. Generally speaking, grasslands, or rangelands, as they’re sometimes called, are open areas without trees. Unfortunately, many other changes were concomitant with the replacement of native with domestic herbivores (e.g. Ecosystem services lost to oil and gas in North America, Confronting a biome crisis: global disparities of habitat loss and protection, Restoring heterogeneity on rangelands: ecosystem management based on evolutionary grazing patterns, A metaphysiological modelling approach to stability in herbivore–vegetation systems, Functional heterogeneity in resources within landscapes and herbivore population dynamics, A management framework for the transition from livestock production toward biodiversity conservation on Great Plains rangelands, Structural heterogeneity increases diversity of non-breeding grassland birds, Pyrodiversity is the coupling of biodiversity and fire regimes in food webs, Preference for grassland heterogeneity: implications for biodiversity in the Great Plains, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change, doi:10.3159/1095-5674(2006)133[626:EAOOTC]2.0.CO;2, doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2003)053[0994:WEBLAC]2.0.CO;2, doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2006)016[1706:SHBTBF]2.0.CO;2, doi:10.1890/0012-9658(1997)078[0751:SMROVS]2.0.CO;2, doi:10.1644/1545-1542(2001)082<0889:COBTPD>2.0.CO;2, doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2001)051[0625:RHOREM]2.0.CO;2, Trophic rewilding: impact on ecosystems under global change, target was cooler but bison are tolerant of extremes, post-European as a target but limited acknowledgement of the role of Native Americans, contemporary with variable land-owners and objectives. 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]. in a Changing Landscape. 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 [32]. Here we discuss three perspectives of herbivore-based conservation in North American grasslands. Overgrazing is when herd animals consume the vegetation cover of a grassland to the degree that it can’t be naturally replenished. Analyses using spatial panel data models further quantified the contributions of major grassland conservation programs to grassland vegetation improvement. 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. 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. Specifically, we (1) selected stream and grassland species of common conservation interest to partnering states, (2) modeled and mapped regional distributions of these species, and (3) used predicted species occurrences to identify regional conservat ion focal areas. These models give but passive recognition that the greatest resistance to any form of conservation is social and is associated with land use, land ownership and large-scale fragmentation. None of the models adequately consider the human dimensions of conservation and will probably struggle with policy, economics, threats and opportunities in the future. Our 100% model Our dedicated board members volunteer their time and donate all administrative costs, so every dollar you give goes directly toward conservation. 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]. Figure 2. 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 Additionally, there is little recognition of landscape complexity or dynamics. One contribution of 16 to a theme issue ‘ Trophic rewilding: consequences for under. 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