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Environmental Sciences | Forgotten Grasslands of the South - Natural History and Conservation

Forgotten Grasslands of the South

Natural History and Conservation

Noss, Reed F

2013, XVIII, 317 p. 75 illus.


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  • Reed Noss is a passionate narrator and eloquent writer, who brings scientific insight, literary talent, and near cult-status within the larger conservation biology community
  • The first book to offer a comprehensive look at the natural and human history, ecology, distribution, and conservation of Southern grasslands
  • The book’s unifying theme—the critical role of ecological processes in healthy landscapes—is becoming more and more significant to the conservation biology community

Forgotten Grasslands of the South is a literary and scientific case study of some of the biologically richest and most endangered ecosystems in North America. Eminent ecologist Reed Noss tells the story of how southern grasslands arose and persisted over time and addresses questions that are fundamental for conserving these vital yet poorly understood ecosystems.

The author examines

  • the natural history of southern grasslands
  • their origin and history (geologic, vegetation, and human)
  • biological hotspots and endangered ecosystems
  • physical determinants of grassland distribution, including ecology, soils, landform, and hydrology fire, herbivores, and ecological interactions

The final chapter presents a general conservation strategy for southern grasslands, including prioritization, protection, restoration, and management. Also included are examples of ongoing restoration projects, along with a prognosis for the future.

In addition to offering fascinating new information about these little-studied ecosystems, Noss demonstrates how natural history is central to the practice of conservation. Natural history has been on a declining trajectory for decades, as theory and experimentation have dominated the field of ecology. Ecologists are coming to realize that these divergent approaches are in fact complementary, and that pursuing them together can bring greater knowledge and understanding of how the natural world works and how we can best conserve it.

Forgotten Grasslands of the South explores the overarching importance of ecological processes in maintaining healthy ecosystems, and is the first book of its kind to apply natural history, in a modern, comprehensive sense, to the conservation of biodiversity across a broad region. It sets a new standard for scientific literature and is essential reading not only for those who study and work to conserve the grasslands of the South but also for everyone who is fascinated by the natural world.

Content Level » Professional/practitioner

Keywords » Ecology - Ecosystem - Endemic species - Grassland - Southeastern US

Related subjects » Animal Sciences - Ecology - Environmental Sciences - Forestry - Nature Conservation & Biodiversity

Table of contents 

Foreword; Edward O. Wilson



Chapter 1: Natural History of a Forgotten American Grassland

Natural History for Conservation

Grasslands in the South?

What and Where Are Southern Grasslands?

The Grasslands Considered in This Book

Joshua Creek

Chapter 2: Origin and History

A General Model

Geology, Physiography, and Pre-Neogene History

Neogene and Quaternary History

Disjunctions and the Gulf Coastal Corridor

Human History in the South, as It Relates to Grasslands

Mills Creek

Chapter 3: Biological Hotspots and Endangered Ecosystems

Discovering Lost Worlds


Centers of Endemism in the South

Peripherals and Disjuncts

Species Richness

Species Richness in Southern Grasslands

People Care about Diversity, Endemism, and Disjunctions

The Decline of Southern Grasslands

Chapter 4: Physical Factors: Rock, Soil, Landform, Water, and Wind

The Purpose of My Journeys

Rock, Soil, and Landform


Wind, Storms, and Sea-Level Rise

Chapter 5: Fire, Big Animals, and Interactions

Bottom-Up, Top-Down, and Sideways



Interaction of Fire and Hydrology

The Enigmatic Canebrakes

Chapter 6. The Future of Southern Grasslands: Outline of a Strategy

A Conservation Strategy for Southern Grasslands

Examples of Restoration Projects

The Future?

Species List

Literature Cited

About the Author


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