A study by Kansas State University, USA found that reintroducing bison increases plant diversity in tallgrass prairie areas.
The recently published research analyzed more than 30 years of data collected from the Konza Prairie Biological Station.
“Bison were an integral part of North American grasslands before they were suddenly removed from more than 99 percent of the Great Plains,” said Zak Ratajczak, assistant professor of biology and principal investigator. “This removal of bison occurred before quantitative records of their numbers were made, and therefore the effects of their removal are largely unknown.”
Megafauna could help restore biodiversity
The study took place in the Flint Hills region, which is the largest tallgrass prairie. The researchers examined plant diversity in three different case studies. In the first case, grazing animals were not present. In the second case, bison were reintroduced and allowed to graze year-round. In the third case, domestic cattle were introduced and allowed to graze during the growing season.
“Our results suggest that many grasslands in the Great Plains have substantially less plant biodiversity than they would have had before bison were widely extirpated,” Ratajczak said. “The return or “rescue” of the native megafauna could help restore grassland biodiversity.”
Area grazed by bison, more drought resistant
“I think this study also shows that domestic cattle can also have a largely positive impact on biodiversity conservation,” he added. cited by PHYS.
The researchers also found that native plant species in the bison-grazed area were more drought-resistant.
“The resilience we found in bison grasslands is also consistent with the idea that biodiversity promotes ecological resilience,” Ratajczak said.
The study can be read in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.