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e-Journal

 

The Tallgrass Prairie:
An Endangered Landscape

(Released November 2011)

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  by Pam Graham  

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Once stretching uninterrupted across 150 million acres between the Rocky Mountains and the Missouri River, the tallgrass prairie is a complex ecosystem dominated by unique native grasses that can grow to heights of 8 or 9 feet each fall. After thriving for over 8,000 years aided by the restorative effects of drought, bison grazing, lightning fires and deliberate burns set by Native Americans, this diverse natural community was reduced to 2% of its original size by the early 1900s. It took the steel moldboard plow just half a century to bring the tallgrass prairie to the brink of destruction. Today, an array of public and private efforts is underway to provide a last stand against extinction for this highly endangered ecosystem.

Tallgrass Prairie
A portion of Konza Prairie, 1,000 acres of virgin tallgrass prairie near Manhattan, Kansas
This Discovery Guide briefly reviews the history of the tallgrass prairie, explains its unique biological traits, and takes a look at current research, education and conservation techniques aimed at preserving the landscape about which Willa Cather wrote: “Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky” (245).

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