In November 2016, the national Park Service organic Resources division in fort Collins, Colorado, began the 52-week lengthy "Bison Bellows" series. Every week, "Bison Bellows" featured quick articles—known together "Bellows"—highlighting stories centered on three themes: conference the herd, meeting the people, and telling the story. In essence, that is a celebration of all points bison.

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* Photo/ J. Schmidt

Just prefer cows and elk, bison have four stomachs. If you may think this method that bison deserve to eat 4 times as lot as pets with one stomach, this is not the case. Your four-chambered, ruminant cradle system enables for the absorption of cellulose- a fibrous plant product that is hard to breakdown. With this capability to digest cellulose and their selective grazing habits, among bison"s greatest influences to the prairie ecosystem is based upon their foraging ecology.

Bison are considered generalist foragers, definition they eat a vast array that herbaceous grasses and also sedges typically found in mixed-grassed prairies. These varieties of plants include varieties such as Blue gramma, sand dropseed, and little bluestem. Back bison graze greatly on grass species, they will occasionally consume woody vegetation as soon as food is limited. By feeding greatly on grass types and selectively preventing other plants, bison influence the local prairie biodiversity. In other words, bison develop a spatial mosaic pattern of grazed and also ungrazed areas. If friend imagine a quilt through patches each representing various plant varieties and part of grazed and ungrazed areas, this "quilt" can regularly exemplify one area after a bison herd forages. With high plant biodiversity, there can be an increase in gas exchange, biomass, and plant cover. Photosynthesis also increases as soon as bison selectively graze, since with countless different kinds of plants, over there is enhanced light availability and diminished competition for water and nutrients.

Bison are likewise attracted to recently burned areas, therefore, influencing plant diversity. After ~ a disturbance, such as a wildfire, grasses establish prior to other plant species. Bison prefer these regrowth areas because they have a plethora that grasses easily accessible to castle without having actually to graze selectively around woody tree species---woody tree take much longer to develop after a disturbance. By grazing in these new grass-dominated sites, bison assist increase the local diversity. In other words, a range of plants have actually the possibility to grow in grazed and also burned areas.

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Undoubtedly, bison grazing patterns affect the prairie ecosystem. Their foraging is vital for plant ar structures, because woody vegetation can prosper in a grass-dominated landscape. Selective grazing through bison can an outcome in a diverse, heterogeneous see of tree species. This choice of grass varieties can help reduce competition because that resources in between grasses and woody plant species, certainly increasing varieties richness and also diversity uncovered in the prairie ecosystems.