Greater Prairie Chickens as an Umbrella species. Read More
Many of us have heard that there are important species to the wholeness of an ecosystem.
A "Keystone Species" is one such term. An "Umbrella Species" is another. Greater Prairie Chickens are an Umbrella species. Simply put: if you save an umbrella species, then you save many other species due to the requirements in order to save that one. In our case, that is Greater Prairie Chickens. Greater Prairie Chickens require enough space to sustain a population that many other species are in turn given sufficient habitat to build sustainable populations.
Because one booming ground requires an “exclusive area” of about 1.2 miles diameter, you can rather simply calculate some distances between booming grounds given optimal habitat within the ecological community.
So if we want 500 booming grounds or 5,000 booming grounds in any given state, we know the required area of native grasslands, as well as the amount of agriculture which can be spaced in various locations in and around the grasslands.
To restore Greater Prairie chickens populations to self-sustaining levels requires minimal areas of native grass or “tame hay”. The famed biologists Fred & Francis Hamerstrom indicated that prairie chickens can sustain in areas with a minimum of 33% undisturbed grassland. However, the more isolated this becomes and as the land use around this area also becomes more fragmented, the sustainability will decline. Biologists now feel that the optimal land use is 70% grassland to 30% agriculture for prairie chickens. If we can plan for blocks of habitat with some habitat corridor linkages then we will not need to have exclusive. These large tracts of grasslands ideally would either be containing some portions of native plants or be restored with the care that is being given to places like the Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands in northern Illinois.