Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Looking to the Future: Key points for sustainable management of Northern Great Plains grasslands

October 6, 2019

The grasslands of the northern Great Plains region of North America are considered endangered ecosystems and priority conservation areas yet have great ecological and economic importance. Grasslands in the northern Great Plains (referred to as NGP from this point) are no longer self-regulating adaptive systems. The challenges to these grasslands are widespread and serious (e.g., climate change, invasive species, fragmentation, altered disturbance regimes, and anthropogenic chemical loads). Because the challenges facing the region are dynamic, complex, and persistent, a paradigm shift in how we approach restoration and management of the grasslands in the northern Great Plains is imperative. The goal of this paper is to highlight 4 key points for land managers and restoration practitioners to consider when planning management or restoration actions. First, we discuss the appropriateness of using historical fidelity as a restoration or management target because of changing climate, widespread pervasiveness of invasive species, the high level of fragmentation, and altered disturbance regimes. Second, we highlight ecosystem resilience and long-term population persistence as alternative targets. Third, because the NGP is so heavily impacted with anthropogenic chemical loading, we discuss the risks of ecological traps and extinction debt. Finally, we highlight the importance of using adaptive management and having patience during restoration and management. Consideration of these 4 points will help management and restoration of grasslands move toward a more successful and sustainable future. Although we specifically focus on the northern Great Plains of North America, these same issues and considerations apply to grasslands globally as well as many other ecosystems.

Publication Year 2019
Title Looking to the Future: Key points for sustainable management of Northern Great Plains grasslands
DOI 10.1111/rec.13050
Authors Lora Perkins, Marissa Ahlering, Diane L. Larson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Restoration Ecology
Index ID 70206793
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center