Talll Grass Prairie
- Native tallgrass prairie is the MOST ENDANGERED ecosystem in North America (Kansas State University).
- Native prairie root systems are the BEST natural soil anchors on earth. One acre of established prairie can produce 24,000 pounds of roots (Iowa State University).
- One acre of established prairie can ABSORB nice inches of rainfall per hour before runoff occurs(University of North Iowa).
- One acre of established prairie can INTERCEPT as much as 53 tons of water during a one-inch per hour rainfall event (University of Nebraska-Lincoln).
- Prairie foliage represents a surface area five to 20 times larger than the soil area beneath it(University of Nebraska-Lincoln).
- Prairie planted in roadside ditches makes our highways safer by INCREASING the holding capacity for snow in the ditch provided the shoulder is mowed (MN DOT).
- Natural competition of prairie plants REDUCES the occurrence of weeds in an area (Iowa State University).
- Greater prairie diversity creates greater biotic barriers to PREVENT weed invasion (University of Minnesota).
- One acre of reconstructed prairie can produce more net bioenergy than land used to grow corn for ethanol
- (University of Minnesota).
From 1540 to 1750, European explorers and traders in the Piedmont region of North and South Carolina reported many prairie-like openings ranging in size up to 40 km across. However, historical evidence of Piedmont prairies has been inaccessible to most restorationists and land managers. This review summarizes historical information on prairie landscapes of the Carolina Piedmont region at the time of European-American exploration and settlement. Historical and meteorological evidence suggests that these prairies were primarily the products of Native American burning and agriculture. Â© Natural Areas Association.
The tallgrass prairie is an ecosystem native to central North America, with fire as its primary periodic disturbance. In the past, tallgrassprairies covered a large portion of the American Midwest, just east of the Great Plains, and portions of the Canadian Prairies. They flourished in areas with rich loess soils and moderate rainfall of around 760 to 890 mm (30 to 35 in) per year. To the east were the fire-maintained eastern savannas. In the northeast, where fire was infrequent and periodic windthrow represented the main source of disturbance, beech-maple forestsdominated. In contrast, shortgrass prairie was typical in the western Great Plains, where rainfall is less frequent and soils are less fertile
As its name suggests, the most obvious features of the tallgrass prairie are tall grasses, such as indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), which average between 1.5 and 2 m (4.9 and 6.6 ft) tall, with occasional stalks as high as 2.5 to 3 m (8.2 to 9.8 ft). Prairies also include a large percentage of forbs, such as lead plant (Amorpha spp.), prairie rosinweed (Silphium terebinthinaceum), and coneflowers.
The tallgrass prairie biome depends upon prairie fires, a form of wildfire, for its survival and renewal. Tree seedlings and intrusive alien species without fire-tolerance are eliminated by periodic fires. Such fires may either be set by humans (for example, Native Americans used fires to drive bison and improve hunting, travel, and visibility) or started naturally by lightning. Researchers' attempts to re-establish small sections of tallgrass prairie in arboretum fashion were unsuccessful until they began to use controlled burns.
Technically, prairies have less than 5-11%[clarification needed] tree cover. A grass-dominated plant community with 10-49% tree cover is a savanna.(A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that thecanopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.)
Historically, the Midwest contained both prairies and forest, often with "islands" of oak groves (attractive places for settlement, hence Morton Grove and Downers Grove) and transitional areas called savannas that were maintained by intermittent prairie fires. Property owners should attempt to preserve remnants of oak groves and may chose to restore the delicate and beautiful oak savanna ecosystem.
A good source of seed and information: