North American prairie and the dangers that threaten it

There are threats that put this biome at risk. Climate change, no doubt. But also the destruction of the environment

by Lorenzo Ciotti
SHARE
North American prairie and the dangers that threaten it

The North American prairie includes some large territories in North America and specifically refers to a large area called the Great Plains. It includes the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, and most of the states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

There are threats that put this biome at risk. Climate change, no doubt. But also the destruction of the environment, which is gradually transforming the biome into arable land. Furthermore, pollution also plays a fundamental role: recent studies have confirmed that even these remote corners of the US are subject to air pollution and the presence of microplastics.

Most of these territories have been converted to agricultural land in the last two hundred years. Fire is an important part of the ecological balance of the North American prairie. Natural or man-made fires were common occurrences in prairie areas.

Just as the grazing of the American bison and the presence of prairie dogs also help to maintain its natural characteristics. There are also small prairies in eastern North America that were probably created by the periodic Indian fires.

Some of these were along the southern shore of Lake Erie in present-day Pennsylvania and New York states. Another was between Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake in today's upstate New York. Areas that have not yet undergone human intervention host some species of wild herbivores.

The most representative is undoubtedly the American bison, which gathers in large herds for defensive purposes and makes spectacular southward migrations during the adverse season. Among the other large herbivores we mention the mule deer and the antelope, which suffered, like the bison, a real massacre in the 19th century, and whose large predators, such as the puma, are now very few.

Typical mammals that build underground dens are, on the other hand, among the many rodents present: the prairie dog, which lives in gigantic labyrinth-like social dens. Some citelli, including Ictidomys tridecemlineatus, so called because the brown fur is characterized by 13 white stripes with small spots, or the lowland gopher, very well adapted to underground life, with small eyes, small ears, huge incisors , and feet suitable for running quickly, even backwards.