Reintroducing bison results in long-running and resilient increases in grassland diversity

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sally E. Koerner, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The widespread extirpation of megafauna may have destabilized ecosystems and alteredbiodiversity globally. Most megafauna extinctions occurred before the modern record, leaving itunclear how their loss impacts current biodiversity. We report the long-term effects ofreintroducing plains bison (Bison bison) in a tallgrass prairie versus two land uses that commonlyoccur in many North American grasslands: 1) no grazing and 2) intensive growing-season grazingby domesticated cattle (Bos taurus). Compared to ungrazed areas, reintroducing bison increasednative plant species richness by 103% at local scales (10 m2) and 86% at the catchment scale.Gains in richness continued for 29 y and were resilient to the most extreme drought in four decades.These gains are now among the largest recorded increases in species richness due to grazing ingrasslands globally. Grazing by domestic cattle also increased native plant species richness, but by less than half as much as bison. This study indicates that some ecosystems maintain a latentpotential for increased native plant species richness following the reintroduction of nativeherbivores, which was unmatched by domesticated grazers. Native-grazer gains in richness wereresilient to an extreme drought, a pressure likely to become more common under future globalenvironmental change.

Additional Information

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(36)
Language: English
Date: 2022
biodiversity, keystone predation, top-down, rewilding, resistance

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