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Euro-American settlement of Iowa in the mid 1800s began a period of rapid and devastating change for the landscape ecology of the state. Before settlement, graceful prairies and prairie-wetland complexes dominated Iowa’s rolling landscape, with forest communities hugging rivers and streams and savannas or forests covering the southern and eastern portions of the state. During the last 150 years these original natural communities have nearly been eliminated by conversion of over 95 percent of the land to agricultural and urban uses.
This timely, practical book combines a nontechnical natural history of each native community with a how-to manual for lay restorationists dedicated to reconstructing prairies, forests, and wetlands in Iowa. Jan Thompson intelligently presents the collective experience of professionals active in restoring the splendid natural areas of Iowa and the greater Midwest – discussing site selection, site preparation, appropriate plant species, planting techniques, costs, and maintenance of restoration areas. She includes a most useful list of sources for plant materials in and near Iowa as well as information on the diverse birds and mammals, reptiles and amphibians of these landscapes.
New understanding of the functional significance of these valuable ecosystems has spurred commitment to reconstructing, restoring, and maintaining communities of native vegetation. Although we derive direct economic benefits from the presence of additional areas of prairies, forests, and wetlands, their intangible values – including wildlife habitat, preservation of biotic diversity, erosion and pollution control, and aesthetic fulfillment – may be far greater. Many endangered or threatened species can survive only in specific prairie, forest, or wetland habitats, aided by intensive human intervention. Strikingly illustrated and sensibly written, Prairies, Forests, and Wetlands will help individual landowners, farmers, landscape architects, D.O.T. engineers, teachers, botanists, county conservation boards, and wildlife area managers in their private and professional campaigns to reclaim Iowa’s land.
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