Date of this Version
Proceedings of the 23rd North American Prairie Conference, August 2012, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg
The Prairie Naturalist 46: 62-69. August 2014
Tallgrass prairie once dominated most of mid-continent North America. Conversion of this prairie to cropland was rapid and extensive. Today, it is the most decimated ecosystem in North America with less than two percent remaining. Prairie reconstruction began at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in the 1930s. Thirty years later, exemplary initiatives by a group of highly motivated restorationists in Illinois and Iowa became a part of the legacy of restoration ecology. Their work generated widespread public interest in prairie restoration and initiated the ongoing biennial North American Prairie Conference. Since then, practitioners have made significant advances in reconstruction and remnant restoration procedures and techniques. Prairie restoration is now at a point where practitioners and restoration ecologists can cooperate to develop principles that can be applied in the new century. Increases in the human population and resource consumption are extensively altering ecosystems creating a need for restoration of natural systems. Advances initiated in the twentieth century provide a bridge to prairie restoration in the future. The twenty-first century will likely be recognized as the “restoration century” with tallgrass prairie restoration as a major component.