Monday, April 6, 2009

Megafauna, Fires, and Black Blizzards

The stories that I linked to on my April 1st post are two of several NPR pieces having to do with the Great Plains. I’ve posted three more here, including a great one on the Dust Bowl.

Re-Wilding the Great Plains

Talk of the Nation, August 19, 2005 · Guest: Josh Donlan, doctoral candidate in Cornell University's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Ithaca, N.Y.

This interview is with a researcher, in the vain of Manning, who proposed to reintroduce descendents of Pleistocene era lions and elephants in order to undo human Plains damage. He published this proposal in the journal Nature. The entire article, "Pleistocene Rewilding: An Optimistic Agenda for Twenty-First Century Conservation," can be found here:

I’ve included his abstract at the very end of this post.*

Park Service Maps the Great Plains Fire History

Morning Edition, November 2, 2006 · Sarah McCammon of Nebraska Public Radio reports.

We’ve talked a good deal about prairie fires in this class. This story discusses how researchers can read history from nature.

Plains Farmers Learn from Past as Aquifer Depletes

All Things Considered, August 11, 2007

This story gives a great description of Dust Bowl life and what farmers are now doing to avoid another agricultural catastrophe.

*Pleistocene Rewilding: An Optimistic Agenda for Twenty-First Century Conservation

Abstract: Large vertebrates are strong interactors in food webs, yet they were lost from most ecosystems after the dispersal of modern humans from Africa and Eurasia. We call for restoration of missing ecological functions and evolutionary potential of lost North American megafauna using extant conspecifics and related taxa. We refer to this restoration as Pleistocene rewilding; it is conceived as carefully managed ecosystem manipulations whereby costs and benefits are objectively addressed on a case-by-case and locality-by-locality basis. Pleistocene rewilding would deliberately promote large, long-lived species over pest and weed assemblages, facilitate the persistence and ecological effectiveness of megafauna on a global scale, and broaden the underlying premise of conservation from managing extinction to encompass restoring ecological and evolutionary processes. Pleistocene rewilding can begin immediately with species such as Bolson tortoises and feral horses and continue through the coming decades with elephants and Holarctic lions. Our exemplar taxa would contribute biological, economic, and cultural benefits to North America. Owners of large tracts of private land in the central and western United States could be the first to implement this restoration. Risks of Pleistocene rewilding include the possibility of altered disease ecology and associated human health implications, as well as unexpected ecological and sociopolitical consequences of reintroductions. Establishment of programs to monitor suites of species interactions and their consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem health will be a significant challenge. Secure fencing would be a major economic cost, and social challenges will include acceptance of predation as an overriding natural process and the incorporation of pre-Columbian ecological frameworks into conservation strategies.

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