Question: What happens to a large, conserved landscape in a time of climate change?
Answer: Climate change reinforces the need for large-scale conservation because vast areas will be needed to help plants and wildlife survive and find refuge in a changing environment. In creating the prairie, we're doing what biologists say is needed in the face of this threat. Scientists predict that the northern plains will experience hotter temperatures, drier conditions, and highly localized weather events. Animals like pronghorn, bison and sage grouse will move to areas of sufficient rainfall, which may change year-to-year, and habitat connectivity will be increasingly important. Plants are already shifting their ranges in response to changes in seasonality and temperature. In addition to size, ecosystems with high native diversity will likely be more resilient to change, making restoration of non-native areas an important part of our work in coming years. American Prairie will also provide opportunity to study wildlife, weather, water and other climate change issues, earning its reputation as a living laboratory for researchers and classrooms.
Dig Deeper: The 2014 U.S. climate assessment report is available at nca2014.globalchange.gov.