Wetlands & Grasslands

Photo credit: USFWS

Wetlands & Grasslands

Globally, grasslands are the most human-altered biome with the highest risk of biome extinction. Only 18% of the grassland in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region (U.S. PPR) is protected (as of 2006), which equates to just 5% of historic grass area. Additionally, only 34% of the wetlands, which are sprinkled throughout these grasslands, are protected (as of 2006).

The rich soils of grassland areas make them attractive for agricultural production. Consequently, the PPR is one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world. Ongoing conversion likely will impact wildlife. Research suggests most grassland species do poorly on cropland relative to undisturbed land. Additionally, crop types are changing across the PPR, along with more intensive cropping systems and expansion into areas previously considered unfit for row crop production.

Demand for biofuels adds to the pressure for conversion of grasslands to cropland. In addition, oil and gas development is growing rapidly in portions of the PPR. Ever expanding wind energy development also has large potential to impact the PPR. While research specific to its impacts in the PPR is just beginning, research elsewhere suggests there will be negative impacts on wildlife under expanding energy development.