The city of Calgary is in a grasslands biome that stretches across the United States and Canada. Read the passage below to see how the grasslands have changed.
Agriculture, urbanization, and mineral exploration have had both local and regional effects on biological resources. Invasions of nonindigenous plant species after fire suppression in the eastern, central, and southern prairies, as well as water developments in the western plains, have drastically altered grassland landscapes. Establishment of woodlots, shelterbelts, and tree-lined river and stream corridors within the prairie has contributed to a significant and ongoing loss of genetic diversity in North American grasslands (Knopf 1986). . . .
Prairie Past and Present
In the past, grassland dominated central North America and, during the warm, dry interglacial times, reached--as the prairie peninsula--into parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and eastern Ohio (Bazzaz and Parrish 1982). The main bodies of native grassland, now vastly altered, are the tall-grass prairie extending from Canada (Manitoba) and Minnesota south to Texas; the mixed-grass prairie from Canada, Montana, and North Dakota south to Texas; and the short-grass prairie extending from eastern Wyoming south to western Texas and eastern New Mexico. . . .
Since 1830 declines in the area of tall-grass prairie within specific states and provinces are estimated to be 82.6 to 99.9% and exceed those reported for any other major ecological community in North America (Samson and Knopf 1994). Iowa, for example, has barely 12,140 hectares remaining of its original 12 million hectares of tall-grass prairie. Less than 1% of the presettlement tall-grass prairie remains in Manitoba, Illinois, Indiana, and North Dakota. . . .
In general, the mixed-grass prairie is characterized by the warm-season grasses of the short-grass prairie to the west and the cool- and warm-season grasses, which grow much taller, to the east. Because of this ecotonal mixing, the number of plant species found in mixed-grass prairies exceeds that in other prairie types. Estimated declines in area of native mixed-grass prairie, although less than those of the tall-grass, range from 30.5% in Texas to over 99.9% in Manitoba. . . .
Declines in short-grass prairie have generally been much less than those of tall-grass and mixed-grass prairies. However, perhaps in no other system than short-grass prairie are historical and evolutionary impacts of grazing so apparent (Knopf 1996). . . . Major antigrazing structures evolved in plants: thorns and spikes; thick or hard tissues difficult to bite, chew, or digest; and secondary compounds difficult to digest. These structures have arisen through the long coevolutionary association between plants and animals with grazing on grasslands. . . .
1. What are some of the factors that are affecting grasslands? List at least four factors.
2. How have the grasslands changed? List at least two changes.