Nachusa prairie.JPG
Tallgrass prairie restoration

Prairie grasslands are one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet.  There are many ongoing restoration efforts in the Midwest Region.  One of the most extensive and successful restoration projects is at Nachusa Grasslands.  The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been restoring prairie ecosystems from farmland since the 1980's and they have different blocks of prairie that are in different stages and ages of recovery.  Moreover, they reintroduced bison at Nachusa in 2014.  Restoring bison is hypothesized to restore the key ecological functions and relationships that existed in tallgrass prairies historically and also provides a unique opportunity to study ecosystem response to the restoration of this important driver.  Together with TNC, and faculty and students at NIU (Nick Barber, Rich King, and Wes Swingley), and Rutgers University (Bethanne Bruninga-Socolar), I set up long-term monitoring in plots in a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) experimental design with different time since restoration and bison treatments to track responses to prairie and bison restoration of plants, microbes, arthropods, small mammals, reptiles, and pollinators.  This extensive monitoring can answer different questions about how different restoration efforts (e.g. seeding density, prescribed fire, bison restoration) affect restoration trajectories and outcomes. This collaboration with Nick Barber was funded through the NSF-EAGER program and we refer to it as the ReFuGE project. Read more about it here.

Ongoing Projects Include:

1. REstoring FUnction in Grassland Ecosystems (ReFuGE)

2. Grassland bird response to bison and prairie vegetation restoration

3. Using unmanned aerial vehicles and isotopes to quantify reintroduced bison diet and impacts in restored prairies

4. Studying trophic cascade and predator-prey interactions through predator exclosure fences

5. The effects of invasive plant removal on small mammals and their resource bases

Watch a video about our remote sensing work here:

Relevant Publications Include:

Barber, N.A., K.A. Lamagdeleine-Dent, J.E. Willand, H. P. Jones, K.W. McCravy. Species and functional trait re-assembly of ground beetle communities in restored grasslands. In press at Biodiversity and Conservation.

Barber, N. A., H. P. Jones, M. R. Duvall, W. P Wysocki*, M. J.Hansen, and D. J. Gibson (2017). Phylogenetic diversity is maintained despite richness losses over time in restored tallgrass prairie plant communities. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54(1), 137-144.