Clarifying Science Needs for Southeastern Grasslands

Project Information

Jennifer Cartwright, USGS Lower Mississippi – Gulf Water Science Center
Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative, Austin Peay State University

Proposed Project Completion: May 2020

Implements Science Plan Theme: Adaptation

Overview

Grasslands are plant communities that have few or no trees, or have open canopies that allow for the development of a grassy groundcover. Grasslands in the southeastern U.S. support rare plant and animal species and in some cases qualify as global or regional hotspots of biodiversity. Yet the Southeast’s grasslands have been reduced by approximately 90% since European settlement, as the result of agriculture, urbanization, and fire suppression. Today, climate change represents an additional stressor that may pose direct and indirect threats to grassland-related biodiversity. Additional knowledge is urgently needed to evaluate conservation options for species of conservation concern in southeastern U.S. grasslands, including species that are listed as endangered or threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act or are being considered for such listing.

A region-wide workshop of scientific and conservation professionals will explore the challenges to grassland species conservation in the southeastern U.S. Emphasis will be placed on clarifying the research and data needs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state agencies related to Species Status Assessments (SSAs) for imperiled grassland species. This project will produce a report that specifies the types of data and analysis most needed to help grassland managers restore, conserve, and manage these ecosystems into the future. This work supports Secretary of Interior’s priority to create a conservation stewardship legacy by utilizing science to identify best practices to manage land and water resource and adapt to changes in the environment.