A New Era of Protected Areas for the Great Plains
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TEMPERATE GRASSLANDS, including the Great Plains of North America, are one of the least protected biomes on Earth. Keystone species and large-scale ecological processes that shaped the Great Plains’ biodiversity are now missing or much diminished. Fortunately, native prairie persists over significant portions of the Great Plains and the potential exists to fully restore the region’s native biota with a network of small and large protected areas. Despite ongoing threats to the region’s biodiversity, changing public attitudes and economic and demographic trends may present opportunities for the creation of new protected areas in the Great Plains—with the term protected areas here meaning any land devoted primarily to biodiversity conservation—that are sufficiently large to harbor the full suite of native species and ecological processes.