The Value of Native Prairie

The Value of Native Prairie

Native prairie ecosystems are of vital importance to both Species at Risk and to Alberta’s ranching community. Healthy native prairie provides many ecological services for Albertans and for ranchers:

Forage Production
Healthy plant communities use sunlight and water to produce a reliable and high quality source of forage for livestock and wildlife.

Soil Protection
The plant cover from healthy rangelands protect valuable prairie soils from water and wind erosion. Rich soils in the grasslands are one of the reasons forage production is so high.

Water Storage & Water Purification
Healthy rangelands act like a sponge – they soak up and hold on to precipitation and release it slowly over time. They also filter nutrients and sediment out of the water, keeping watersheds, rivers and streams cleaner.

Keep Weeds Out
A well-vegetated, healthy rangeland does not have many bare patches, so there is no room for weeds to move in.

Nutrient Recycler
Inputs of fertilizer and water are not needed on healthy rangelands. Good range management practices lead to natural conservation and recycling of nutrients.

Stability via Diversity
A diversity of grasses, forbs and shrubs provide great stability in extreme weather conditions. Different plants flourish under different moisture conditions and in a healthy rangeland there is always something that can step in and provide some forage.

Carbon Keeper
Rangelands are an effective reservoir for storing carbon. They remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in plant material and soil. Healthy rangelands can contain up to 200 tonnes of carbon per hectare.

In addition to these direct jobs performed by native prairie, there are many less tangible benefits, such as recreational opportunities, aesthetics and the preservation of Alberta’s traditional ranching lifestyle.