Wednesday, November 16, 2016

America’s Great Plains Lost More Habitat in 2014 than the Brazilian Amazon

In 2014 the Great Plains lost more acres of grasslands than the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation, according to a new report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Fifty-three million acres of America’s Great Plains have been lost each year since, threatening important and iconic species like grasslands songbirds, the monarch butterfly, and native bumble bees. “America’s Great Plains are being plowed under at an alarming rate,” said Martha Kauffman, WWF’s managing director of the Northern Great Plains program. “Centuries old, critical prairie habitat that’s home to amazing wildlife and strong ranching and tribal communities is rapidly being converted to cropland and most people don’t even realize it.” The staggering rate of conversion also jeopardizes the ecological services the Great Plains provide, like filtering trillions of gallons of water, recharging our groundwater supplies and storing climate-changing carbon dioxide. According to the report, 3.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions were released into the atmosphere due to plowing of grasslands between 2009 and 2015— the equivalent of 670 million extra cars on the road. The 2016 Plowprint Report is the first-of-its-kind annual analysis tracking losses of the grasslands forming the ecological foundation of America’s Great Plains. In 2015 alone, 3.7 million acres of the Great Plains were converted to cropland. Grassland loss is also contributing to declines of pollinators like bees and monarch butterflies. In fact, the report cites that one of every four species of North American bumble bee is at risk of extinction, with some species declining as much as 87 percent in the past 15 years alone...more

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