Grazing resources for integrated conservation of bison and native prairie at Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Science Center Objects

Badlands National Park (BADL) contains one of the largest protected expanses of mixed-grass prairie in the United States, much of which supports a herd of nearly wild bison. The park nevertheless is too small to accommodate bison’s natural nomadic behavior, which in the past resulted in their ephemeral but intense influence on Great Plains grasslands. This research is assessing the spatial distribution of productivity, composition, and consumption of park vegetation; the location and condition of constructed water resources in the park; and temporal variation of bison diet. Results will be used to determine departure of the park’s current vegetation from desired conditions under current management strategies, as well as the park’s capacity to simultaneously support desired vegetation conditions and more bison. A companion project is assessing the temporal and spatial distribution of bison in the park using GPS collars. Results from these two studies will be used to explore the feasibility of various bison population and vegetation objectives under different management and weather scenarios.