NEBRASKAland June 2016

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 57 of 83

58 NEBRASKAland • JUNE 2016 T he weather in Nebraska is crazy. From day to day and year to year, you never know what might happen. From all indications, the coming decades are only going to get crazier. We're likely to see more intense storms and longer hotter droughts. That will create a number of challenges for people, of course, but also for wildlife and the habitats they rely on. Grasslands play a huge role in supporting Nebraska's economy, through both ranching and recreational opportunities. A broad diversity of plants and animals define and drive the ecology and productivity of grasslands. That diversity will also be the key to ensuring the future of grasslands. Nebraska's grasslands are naturally resilient. They have survived thousands of years of wild climate swings, including droughts that lasted for many decades at a time. Prairies bounced back easily from numerous bouts of intense grazing by hordes of bison and plagues of locusts. Frequent fires kept trees at bay, but made prairie plant and animal communities stronger. The changes we're seeing in climate these days should be no problem for Nebraska grasslands, except that today's grasslands are not quite the same as they were back in the day. We can't turn back the clock, but there are ways we can help those grasslands regain and sustain much of that old resilience. Grassland Resilience in a Changing Climate Story and photos by Chris Helzer The size and diversity in the Nebraska Sandhills, including The Nature Conservancy's Niobrara Valley Preserve in Brown County, help build ecological resilience in those grasslands.

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