This video explains the vital role that bison play in the health of tallgrass prairie ecosystems, which are important carbon sinks.
Students will learn that maintaining the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma requires the presence of grazing bison and controlled burns.
The video also explains that managing cattle grazing to mimic the beneficial effects of bison grazing might help to produce healthier grassland ecosystems in other parts of the world.
The video does a good job of explaining how both grazing and fire help the grasslands to stay healthy.
Links to helpful articles and websites can be found in the article.
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Students should be familiar with the terms biosphere, carbon storage, economics, ecology, migratory, and dormant.
Science classes could make a cause and effect chart to show what happened when prairies were converted into farms.
Biology classes could research the role that fire plays in keeping ecosystems healthy and how preventing natural fires can have a detrimental impact on the environment.
Other resources on this topic include this Vox video on the United States government's attempt to exterminate the bison, this video on how suppressing forest fires made forest fires worse, and this interactive diagram of the carbon cycle.
This resource is an 8-minute video and accompanying webpage that examines efforts to preserve and restore prairie ecosystems in the central U.S. This resource focuses on a preserve in Oklahoma that manages bison and their grassland habitats, and looks at the history of habitat destruction, bison hunting and management, and the lastest understanding of the complexity of prairie ecosystems. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Science and Engineering
ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
MS-LS2-3 Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
HS-LS2-5 Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
HS-LS2-6 Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.