"Heath experts emphasize variety in exercise regimens in order to keep your body in top shape. Not only should you exercise, you should vary the type and intensity of exercise (and include rest periods) to prevent your body from adapting to a particular pattern. That's an excellent metaphor for prairie management. A healthy, well-managed body can resist disease and perform a wide variety of activities well. A healthy, well-managed prairie can resist invasive species and support a wide variety of plants and animals," said Chris Helzer, Eastern Nebraska Program Director.
Conservative estimates put the loss of tallgrass prairie at about 96 percent. The loss of mixed-grass prairie is not quite as severe but is still around 75 percent in many states. Prairies have been destroyed by conversion to row crop agriculture or other human developments, or by broadcast herbicide applications or similar activities. For the Conservancy to advance its conservation mission, we must care for the prairie remnants that remain - and find ways to restore strategic pieces of cropland that can rebuild the size and connection between prairie habitats.
Historically, prairies were created and maintained by three interconnected natural processes: climate, fire, and grazing. Fire and climate interact to help prevent trees from becoming overabundant. Fire and grazing interact to create and maintain a diverse plant community that supports a myriad of other prairie species. When those processes are eliminated, most prairies transform into low-diversity grassland or even woodlands. To address this, we have developed a toolbox of stewardship strategies.
The incredible diversity of life in a prairie means that every decision that relates to the management of a prairie will have an impact on a vast number of species, including plants, animals, insects, and tiny microorganisms. One of the most important things the Conservancy does is manage disturbance. In order for a plant to remain in a prairie, it needs favorable conditions to occur often enough for it to survive and replace itself in the system. The Conservancy helps mimic these historic disturbances through various combinations of prescribed fire and grazing.
The Conservancy is always learning, trying new things, and exporting lessons learned to others.
March 02, 2011