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Bison are helping rewild the last of the midwest prairies
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When white settlers first arrived, a large swath of the U.S. was blanketed in tallgrass prairie. But turmoil came to the landscape shortly thereafter, as those settlers mowed down the bountiful biodiversity to get at the fertile soil beneath. Of the 170 million acres of tallgrass prairie that existed, only four percent of it remains today, ghosts among the cornfields.

It wasn’t just delicate grasses and wildflowers that were wiped out. An estimated 30 million bison roamed the Lower 48 before an extermination campaign brought that number down to around 300 by 1884. The animals have since rebounded somewhat in the the forests of the West and plains of the South, but the remaining tallgrass prairies in more northerly latitudes like Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana are largely devoid of the grass-munching, mud-wallowing ungulates.

That started to change four years ago, with the introduction of bison to Nachusa Grasslands, a 3,500-acre preserve just 100 miles west of Chicago managed by the Nature Conservancy. It’s the first conservation-oriented bison program east of the Mississippi and the results could inform prairie management around the country. Early returns show the bison reintroduction has been a success, and the animals are already having surprising impacts on the grasslands that could be making it healthier. That’s a big deal for such an imperiled landscape.


More:
https://earther.gizmodo.com/bison-are-he...hwy_w9oGao
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