The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative
The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative (SGI) is a developing non-profit conservation organization based out of Austin Peay State University’s Center of Excellence for Field Biology (Clarksville, TN). We will step up and be a leader in Southeastern grasslands conservation at this critical time, when there is a growing realization that something must be done to reverse the tide of grassland biodiversity loss and that something must be on a scale that is of yet unparalleled. Momentum is building but we need more, and it needs focus and direction…there is no time to lose.
SGI will serve as a clearinghouse for grassland conservation, research, consultation, and education. We will work with our donors to distribute funds to accomplish effective conservation across the Southeast.
All types of natural grasslands, including prairies, savannas, barrens, glades, outcrops, riverscour, balds, bogs, fens, and other herbaceous wetlands, are considered high priority conservation targets. Priority will be placed on (1) protection of high-quality remnant grasslands that support rare species and communities, (2) restoration of degraded grasslands that support or have the potential to support rare species and communities, and (3) recreation of grassland habitats in areas that were historically grasslands but have succeeded to forests or been converted to agricultural landscapes.
We have identified 8 strategies integral to successful conservation of Southern grasslands.
Preservation—We will work to preserve our precious few ancient “old- growth” grassland remnants through acquisition and easements.
Restoration—We have the potential to restore grasslands on a large scale by thinning forests in areas that were historically open.
Recreation—We want to recreate lost ecosystems at a large and meaningful scale by using seed from existing remnants to put nearly extinct grasslands back on the landscape.
Rescue—Grassland-dependent biodiversity is imminently threatened at hundreds of sites; we need the capability to mobilize quickly to salvage and rescue species and communities.
Research—It’s a race against time. Whole grassland systems are disappearing before we’ve had a chance to understand them. Remnants urgently need basic biodiversity research.
Seedbanking—we must plan for the future by ensuring we have the “right seed in the right place at the right time.” Precious remnants are the genetic storehouses of locally adapted seed and source populations of other organisms that will serve as building blocks for restoration.
Education—we can’t protect what we don’t understand. There is a critical need for the development of education and outreach resources with a special focus on engaging a public that is increasingly removed from nature. We need citizen-science, volunteer programs, experiential learning projects, technological tools, publications, videos, documentaries, mobile apps, online materials, and/or curricula that have the potential to enhance public understanding of grasslands.