Biodiversity Land Use & Planning

Reintroducing Bison

Reintroducing bison to grasslands increases plant diversity, drought resilience, study finds: A Kansas State University-led study has found that reintroducing bison—a formerly dominant grazer—doubles plant diversity in a tallgrass prairie.

The research involves more than 30 years of data collected at the Konza Prairie Biological Station and was recently published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, or PNAS. The study found that plant communities also were resilient to the most extreme drought in four decades. These gains are now among the largest recorded increases in species richness because of grazing in grasslands globally, researchers said.

“Bison were an integral part of North American grasslands before they were abruptly removed from over 99% of the Great Plains,” said Zak Ratajczak, assistant professor of biology and lead researcher. “This removal of bison occurred before quantitative records and therefore, the effects of their removal are largely unknown.”