Fred B. Samson (top left) is a regional wildlife ecologist for the United States Forest Service in Missoula, Montana. He received his B. A. in business and M. S. in zoology form Indiana University and a Ph.D. in ecology from Utah State University. Fred has worked for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and for the United States Forest Service research and management, and taught at Pennsylvania State University, State College; the University of Missouri-Columbia; and Colorado State University, Fort Collins. His primary conservation activities are large-scale planning and applied biodiversity conservation, with a particular interest in the Great Plains grasslands.
Great Plains ecosystems: past, present, and future
Article first published online: 13 DEC 2010
2004 The Wildlife Society
Wildlife Society Bulletin
Volume 32, Issue 1, pages 6–15, March 2004
How to Cite
Samson, F. B., Knopf, F. L. and Ostlie, W. R. (2004), Great Plains ecosystems: past, present, and future. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 32: 6–15. doi: 10.2193/0091-7648(2004)32[6:GPEPPA]2.0.CO;2
- Issue published online: 13 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 13 DEC 2010
- biological diversity;
- conservation planning;
- ecological drivers;
Little question exists that the main bodies of North American prairie (i.e., the tall-grass, mixed, and shortgrass) are among the most endangered resources on the continent. The purpose of this paper is to provide a past and present biological baseline by which to understand North American prairies and to provide a platform for future conservation. Events both immediate to the end of the Pleistocene and historic suggest that the present grassland conditions are different from those within which most of the grassland organisms evolved. Our analysis suggests that few grassland landscapes remain adequate in area and distribution to sustain diversity sufficient to include biota and ecological drivers native to the landscape. A robust and history-based scenario to conserve Great Plains grasslands is to 1) identify areas large enough to sustain an ecological system with all its biodiversity, 2) reverse significant losses in area of native grasslands, 3) ensure that restoration matches the grassland previously existing at that site, 4) refocus the profession of range management, and 5) establish a more meaningful agency design for grassland and natural resource management.