Everything Changes, Land Use to Climate: Monthly Grassland News Update

A pronghorn races across American Prairie Reserve this spring.


THIS MONTH: Land Conversion for Biofuels, Climate Change on Tibet’s Grasslands, Pesticides and Grassland Birds, Rare Antelope Collaring

In an effort to increase awareness of grasslands issues and encourage you to fall in love with our world’s prairies, American Prairie Reserve compiles a news roundup each month. These stories will introduce you to the organizations working to restore this endangered ecosystem, demonstrate the diversity of the plains and showcase the many different approaches to grassland conservation – from Montana to Mongolia.

Here’s the news from February. Happy reading! We’re already compiling news for the next post, so feel free to leave your suggestions and links in the comments below.


RESEARCH: Recent land use change in the Western Corn Belt threatens grasslands and wetlands. (PDF)
Christopher K. Wright and Michael C. Wimberly, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
High commodity prices have resulted in the large-scale conversion of grasslands to corn and soybean crops for biofuel use, according to new research that tracked the intensity and spatial distribution of land cover/land use change (LCLUC) from 2008 to 2011. Areas across the region, like the Northern Great Plains and Prairie Pothole Region, are changing at rates similar to deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia.


NEWS: Rising temperatures on the ‘Roof of the World’: How Tibet’s grasslands are responding to climate change
Kristi Foster, World Agroforestry Centre
As temperatures rise on the Tibetan plateau, plants are struggling to keep up with seasonal changes. Using satellite imagery and historical precipitation and temperature data, researchers discovered that grasses and other vegetation are not yet “in balance” with environmental conditions that require altered life cycles, such as a longer growing seasons to match higher overall temperatures and warmer winters.


RESEARCH: Pesticide Acute Toxicity is a Better Correlate of U.S. Grassland Bird Declines than Agricultural Intensification (PDF)
Pierre Mineau and Melanie Whiteside, PLOS ONE
Scientists have found that declines in grassland bird populations, such as the horned lark and grasshopper sparrow, can be partially attributed to pesticides used on agricultural lands. While habitat loss remains an important variable in the decline of birds, this study demonstrates that bird mortality related to pesticide toxicity is also a significant factor in the issue.


PHOTOS: World’s rarest antelope GPS collared for first time
Jaymi Heimbuch, Treehugger.com
Kenya’s hirola population, estimated to have around 500 members, is a global rarity that might became less of a mystery. Biologists successfully collared 7 of the endangered antelopes and will follow their movements and behaviors over the next year. The new information will hopefully guide conservation efforts and keep the hirola off the list of extinct African mammals.


American Prairie Reserve (APR) is assembling a world class wildlife reserve in northern Montana, with the goal of one day creating a seamless 3.5 million acre grassland ecosystem. APR’s President Sean Gerrity is a National Geographic Fellow. Learn more about the Reserve, including progress to date and bison restoration efforts, on the Reserve’s website.

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
American Prairie Reserve (APR) is assembling a world class wildlife park in northern Montana, with the goal of one day creating a seamless 3.5 million acre grassland ecosystem. Learn more about APR, including our bison restoration efforts and how to visit, on the Reserve's website.