Prairie restoration

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by sculptor, May 28, 2018.

  1. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    (Maybe this thread belongs in psychology?)
    Prairie restoration
    Prairie restoration
    Prairie restoration
    A local ranger and many of my neighbors almost use the words as a mantra.
    They want to and are working to "restore the prairie".

    The thing is:
    That when Alonzo Denison homesteaded here circa 1839 (on land where i now live) there was no prairie here. This land was forested. Alonzo spent most of the first year cutting down trees, and hunting and fishing for his food. The next year, he went back to Ohio and brought 2 of his brothers out to homestead. His one brother homesteaded the other side of the ridge just south of us. That brother's son made quite a reputation and decent living for himself pulling out stumps for other farmer families with a 10 oxen team.
    At that time, this was an old growth hardwood forest, and many of those tree-roots ran deep.

    I seriously doubt that this area was prairie except for a few moments after the last remnants of the Kansan drift melted away.(if semi arctic tundra can be said to be prairie)
    Ok---given 20-30 miles north and west of here, and for much of Iowa, there really was prairie.

    The question is was that purely natural? A few years ago, some soil studies were done in the loess hills on our side of the Missouri river. The guys doing the study had expected to find forest soils as the area is currently forested. What they found was prairie soils with some evidence that the natives(indians) had maintained the area as prairie by repeated burning(to attract the buffalo with sweet green shoots?).

    A high-ground a few hundred yards away was never farmed, and has a collection of oaks, black cherry, hard maple, hackberry, and hickory.

    Curiously none of the evidence clearly visible or available seems to matter.
    So, many enthusiasts are working hell bent for election to restore a prairie that never was.
    and, I
    watch and wonder
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  3. Dr_Toad It's green! Valued Senior Member

    As I understand it, tall-grass prairie was south of you, and very different from what we call prairie today.

    I forget who said it, but someone did: A squirrel could go from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi river without ever setting foot to the ground. Nowadays they need toll passes...

    Last edited: May 29, 2018
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  5. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    There's an XKCD for that!

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Prior to Euro colonization there were large pockets and areas of prairie extending east of the Mississippi, especially into the Ohio River drainage, into what climate and topographical considerations alone would have indicated "should be" hardwood forest. They were apparently maintained by fire, the origins of which are controversial. (The guys I talk to at the University local firmly attribute this to deliberate and organized burning regimes maintained by human beings, as has been established in large regions of Australia for example, but that was and still seems to be controversial - other schools of thought exist.)

    Many of these had grown into forest by the time of first Euro arrival, which this school attributes to the near elimination of the human population by catastrophic disease spreading north and west from the first Euro contacts, some 200 years before the Euro land pioneers crossed the Appalachian mountains in force.

    The "natural" environment of North (and South) America has included significant populations of well-adapted and prosperous human beings for at least ten thousand years. They are known to have diverted small streams, built large structures of carefully engineered earthworks, and practiced agriculture on a significant scale, along the lengths of all the major rivers of the central continent. They lacked domesticated meat animals, however - so arranging for good habitat for the wild herbivores would have been a natural development.

    Which is to say that a human-maintained prairie would qualify as "natural" in some places.
    Last edited: May 29, 2018

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