tv Bringing Back The Bison Al Jazeera February 18, 2019 11:33am-12:01pm +03
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unemployed and even if the next government can start the recovery process those living here at the bottom of the social ladder will be the last to benefit. this is techno innovations that can change lives the science of fighting wildfires we're going to explore the intersection of hardware and humanity and we're doing it in unique way. this is a show about science at all are not by scientists. tonight. techno in search of the great american prairie where in the ironically we have such little of it left farming and over development killed it now get ready for this explosion of color and the return of these native animals how many plant species do you have in here but fallen tears trying to bring back one of the planet's most complex ecosystems for a new. trouble we just needed something that helped to level the playing field why
a certain animal from america's past was needed to pull off the impossible we've just arrived to furniture so grassland and i'm seeing these bison for the first time. is an environmental biologist tonight a trip to the heartland oh there's a baby. here a santa maria is a new scientist i'm phil tourism i'm an entomologist at big drought of twenty fifteen takes a hidden toll. from above these trees may look green and healthy they're not here we see something that's dramatically different now the technology that can see we can't that's our team i'm a prairie fire now let's do some sun it's.
hey guys welcome to techno on phil tours joined by a care santa maria maria to davison and say we're going to talk to environmental stories and to start off the greats american prairie to me it's one of those iconic images of how the us used to be unfortunately now it's almost entirely just a part of our history yeah there's been a lot of over development of farming and a suburban explosion that's really taken a toll on a lot of prayer ecosystems illinois has been extremely hard hit it's changing but there's been a big change in the landscape there yet this is happening across the united states but i got to say what i really love about this story is that there's a bit of us west so there is i want to give anything away so let's go about ninety miles outside of chicago where they're bringing back a little piece of history it's kind of a big piece of history ok a big piece of history to go on. that. you were looking at a thirty five. hundred acre experiment in
a growing field known as restoration ecology. this is the new choose the grasslands preserve in franklin grove illinois ninety miles west of chicago where the nature conservancy is rolling back time two hundred years to restore a tall grass prairie that was almost extinct. were in the prairie state yeah ironically we have such little of it left at the time of european settlement about two thirds of the state some twenty twenty five million acres in the state was tall grass prarie we have less than one one hundredth of one percent of the native prairie that still intact. the mission is being overseen by three illinois and natives just walk director of science for the nature conservancy project director bill kleiman and restoration ecologist cody considine. it was a vast landscape dominated by those grasses but the real diversity of the prairie
was in the wild flowers in the form of the broadly plant some thousands of species of insects and dozens of birds and mammals and reptiles called the prairie home along with the animals like the bison. what was once this bass landscape across much of illinois has been virtually eliminated and turned into the corn belt. but illinois isn't alone since the late one thousand nine hundred prairie grasslands across the united states have been steadily vanishing. i've heard grasslands and general referred to as the unheralded counterparts of the rain forest and grasslands have a critical role in terms of climate change as well in a prairie most of that carbon is stored in the soil and so it's very secure for very long term storage a soil organic matter in essence the plants of the tall grass prarie absorb carbon dioxide trapping it in their deep roots. the restoration began in
one thousand nine hundred six growing from a small plot of remnant prairie land that had never been farmed. and starting with fire the process hasn't changed much in thirty years. it's completely fire dependent without fire we could not have pretty the vegetation grows more vigorously most species of plants have a season of more intense blooming right after you do the first year the second year after the fire no one knows that transition better than restoration ecologist cody considine. gray we're standing in what looks to me at least two very different types of areas what happened here so yes or right in the line of two different prairie restorations the one right here was planted two years ago and the one behind us was planted the three years ago so overseeing is as easy prey restorations get older more plants emerge they get more mature they're flowering so they're quite dynamic how many plants species do you have in here for this
particular plane and i believe we had one hundred thirty species ranging from there's a native western sunflower this is a conal species we have rattlesnake master here we have grassley and goldenrod here isn't a neck and they show here a paper book on foot already flour. all those bloomers started here all right so this is the cedar and. project director bill kleiman well you might think that the perris tube would find its way out into these former corn fields but it doesn't walk very fast so we would have to wait millennia whereas we can collect the seed from the remnant prairie of bring it out to a cornfield that we're retiring planted and it'll grow back year do you have a sense of how many see you in the volunteers here have planted over the years about two hundred fifty species a year so it's it's millions and millions of sea. conventional wisdom was to
plant ten pounds of seeds breaker but bill ordered fifty pounds and the fields blossomed none of that would be possible without a core of volunteers like jay stacey. so what are you cutting today this particular for is called per coreopsis scientific name coreopsis paul meta how long have you been doing this i've been doing this is my twenty first year. i'm a prairie bar where. all the tall grass planting was a little too successful. we just needed something that helped to level the playing field. what they needed was something to thin out the grass. like an enormous vacuum the solution not a dyson but a herd of bison. a posse of eight hundred pound grazing machines.
we've just arrived at the niche use a grassland and i'm seeing these bison for the first time and i feel like i've just been transported back one hundred fifty two hundred years it's it's pretty it's pretty remarkable to see these enormous animals. we're almost wiped out from north america all there's a baby there's a little one oh a couple of. bison have been part of the vision for the project since the very beginning but it's taken us close to thirty years to be able to put together enough of a landscape where it was a practical consideration for us. and . these iconic bison were the missing link for a massive restoration of this endangered tall grass prairie run by the nature conservancy. would you say that they have been
a game changing factor here. as these animals are going to make a difference on this prairie. i hitched a ride with misuse of project director bill kleiman and restoration ecologist cody considine to track down the bison in their five hundred acre grazing area. the wire the bison so important to the restoration process bison eight grass and they're the disturbances they're creating puts diversity on the landscape as they graze the nutrients are going in one of them is coming out the back and they are getting a very quick nutrient cycling on the prairie. those bison patties are spreading seeds and fertilizing the soil what's the average weight of a full size bison the cows can range from eight hundred to eleven hundred pounds in the bowls as they mature they can get up to two thousand pounds massive so how many
bison do we have on them on the reserve thirty adults and sixteen calves the calf was just born last week a little tiny want to get easily pick it up it's pretty exciting to think about the calf being born on illinois prairie that hasn't happened for probably two hundred years. what happened to bison here there was a tremendous slaughter of bison in the eight hundred seventy thousand eight hundred eighty s. . jeff flock is the chief scientist for the illinois chapter of the nature conservancy . as estimated by the turn of the one thousand hundreds there were probably four hundred to one thousand animals that had persisted out of that massive herd of thirty to sixty million it's close to extinction it's absolutely closely extinction there was definitely a market for the hides for the meats also part of it is that it was encouraged by the u.s. government as a strategy to help reduce the food supply for the native americans in the conflict with the native american peoples it's estimated there are about four hundred
thousand bison now in north america. but most of those bison were bred with cattle for meat production only about twenty thousand are pure american bison. that genetic line dates back to nine hundred thirteen when fourteen bison from the bronx zoo were trucked to win cave national park in south dakota at the behest of teddy roosevelt. so when it was time to bring bison to choose they looked for a posse with the wind gave lineage. we went to broken code on grassland another nature conservancy preserve in northwestern iowa in october of twenty four team and brought back twenty animals with us we were essentially separated off the animals that we were going to bring back to illinois make sure that they had a clean bill of health. seven
of the females we strapped g.p.s. collars onto so that we can get near real time movements of the animals tracking those movements with the g.p.s. collars is julio brockman a bison researcher at southern illinois university. what kind of data are you receiving so we're getting location information a g.p.s. point on a map every hour twenty four hours a day so can you show me what you've been seeing sure. these are the bison locations for yesterday they seem to be spending a lot of time along their corral and trap pressure and i can corroborate that because we were there and we saw them there so what would you say is the ultimate goal of your study having that amount of data really changes how we look at their movements and their selection it helps to understand what type of habitat they're like for reintroduction in the future. among the two dozen scientists doing research at the choose is dr holly jones
a conservation biologist at northern illinois university with her team she's traveling in tagging small mammals to assess the impact of the big bison. the completely restoration ecologist playground i get so excited about this field say let's see if some of the men. there it is small mammals are food for aerial predators things like hot things like owls and so it's really important to know how they're doing to be able to say how the person doing as a whole and that's because if the small mammals are tasty enough to become good prey they're feasting on a healthy environment of insects and plants. what do you see since bison have been introduced we've had thirteen lying around squirrels which was very surprising and the line of evidence is pointing towards a shift in community compositions and there are different plots of land that have been restored at different times and all the way back to twenty years ago we can
look at a plot of land like this that was restored four years ago and we're going to plot of land over there that was restored six years ago and one sees and look at how restoration progresses. and we've taken for a science and said. ok but you can't go there. less than a year since the bisons arrival the environmental impact is subtle some changes to plant growth and small animal populations but the biggest change may be on hugh. it's. very connected to this herd they still feel like these are their buddies this is such a cool thing that we've returned this iconic mammal to illinois it's exciting. i got to say i love when you guys bring stuff back from the field especially from someplace as iconic as tall grass person reading what did you bring us at first till you got to stand up ok how tall you are about six to ok so here is
a tall grass from the tall grass prayer that is some tall grass stalk i mean i was literally swimming in this stuff you know this is amazing this is part of the vegetation we're taught in this is what the bison munch on this is that's exactly what they munch on this is what the bison were brought in to help control the good news. now these are little seed pods they look like musical instruments but they're seed pods of some of the vegetation on the prairie that a nice little ring to it like it and this is what they've been using to replant some of the native vegetation and then when this is the last piece of the puzzle this is a bison for. that surprisingly soft yet and you can see there's stuff in there is a lot of stuff in here so you can see really easily how bison would be dispersing you know these these little seed these large seed disperser is across the prairie a word does even turn the shape like a bus from when i was looking at that footage i was blown away by the color in the
prairie the biodiversity the flowering plants and i wonder if a lot of people have that preconceived notion that nothing grows that they would if i told you kara that along with tropical rainforests prairie lands and other grasslands are the most biodiverse complex ecosystems in the world would you believe me. i mean i believe you because you are an expert it's a it's it's totally true but it does. oh my mind you know i thought it was really interesting to learn how important the prairie land is here in america for you know this because climate change problem that we're all facing these these grasses and these different plants actually act as a kind of a carbon sink don't they they really do the bulk of the plants in the prairie are not above ground they're underground because that's how they survive fire they actually are a big factor in storing carbon yeah and that really does feed into the very next story read until you guys tag teamed
a little bit right both from this guy and from the ground you know i got to see california forests from an airplane like no other and while you were in your flying laboratory i was on the ground seeing the reality of trees and what's taking them down. is so it's so of the norm that we actually don't have the answer to what can we expect long term california's epic drone. reservoirs are near empty farmers' herding and it's forests are aflame or under attack by opportunistic pests so we're seeing tree mortality all over the landscape but in order to understand these changes to forests scientists must first assess their health using field observations and airplanes we have the most advanced airborne remote sensing package that i know of on earth today for over a decade ecologist greg as near has been monitoring the health of forests around
the world in an aircraft called the carnegie airborne observatory techno profiled his work mapping the amazon in a previous episode this time we joined him on his latest effort to map drought plagued california forests in his tricked out door need to twenty eight. in the back of the aircraft are unique sensors designed to take measurements of the forest canopy while the plane flies over it we're flying over about eight million trees per hour one of these instruments is known as light our this instrument is a laser system that fires two lasers out of the bottom of the plane in a pattern that image is the forest canopy over it ever it is that we fly over in three d. what the instruments do is provide us a very accurate very unique way of understanding the amount of carbon stored in california's forests if you don't put carbon in forests then it ends up in the atmosphere and that contributes to climate change the plane is also equipped with
a pair of spectrometers used to detect the chemical composition of trees it was time for takeoff where we going today today we're heading out pretty close to the oregon border where we have a lot of force that's unknown in terms of its drought stress and with that we were off from the air we could see reservoirs and rivers clearly depleted of water lake shasta reservoir that's right it's a lot of water policy when you see walk approach but the forest canopy actually looks pretty green with the big. it looked like a pretty good shape. for his course. throughout stress today by. this is that most of these were. in trouble back at the lab as there's team got to work analyzing all the data that's where tech news phil torres picks up the story see you did a flight with merida these are the results and looking at the cockpit it looked green but here we see something that's dramatically different and what you see we see that the forest is varies from what we consider pretty average conditions in
the yellows and blues up there down to areas that looks severely drought stricken in red next we looked at an area where the drought stress was more acute so this is from los padres national forest this is what it looks like when you fly over gray green looks like your typical southern cal forest. this is what it looks like in chemical detail those trees are doing ok but everything else that is showing severe drought stress and that's showing here in red now that we have the view from above we decided to head out for a boots on the ground perspective i'm standing here in the middle of los padres national forest and as you could tell from all the dead trees behind me there's plenty of evidence of the impact of a multi-year drought one of the biggest problems here a bug that attacks water stressed pine trees. and now we're talkin hours a bunch of tom coleman is an entomologist with the u.s.
forest service a lot of dead trees right here yeah this is a nice will active spot bark beautiful. bark beetles kill more trees than any other kind of insect or disease in north america when you just look across the landscape and you see this kind of patchwork of dead trees mortality is quite dramatic this tree here is full of thousands of bark beetles does that mean that all the trees around here are now susceptible right. from what i've seen it's just basically across the entire landscape have you ever seen this but not here in california. so just ten minutes where we're looking at the devastation caused by the pine beetles and now we are here and you can see the damage done by forest fires and there's a lot going on here so even though the wildfires actually gone through an area and
cause major mortality it will still see bark beetles coming in afterwards scientists studying our forest are concerned about the impacts from drought not just in california but also around the world now what we're starting to worry about is whether these droughts are somehow all interrelated in length at a global scale to suit a lot of force of the world or in trouble droughts putting pressure we don't know exactly how much of the global forest cover is at risk but where in the process now of finally getting the measurements we need to make those predictions. the scientists that are studying these things they can say here's the problem but their hands are tied they all they can do is wait for the drought to be over for el nino to pass and try to influence management and policy they need to get the data into the right hands i think that's the plan that has to get into the hands of managers and decision makers so that they can actually implement changes and whether we're talking about managing america's grasslands or america's forest and
one thing is for certain that if we have healthy ecosystems we will eventually have a healthier climate absolutely and thank you for the story today guys know from prairie being restored by bison to forest being decimated by beetles one thing's for sure it's a complex ecosystem out there but there's a lot of scientists working hard on it that's it for now we'll see you next on your own techno dive deep into these stories and go behind the scenes at al-jazeera dot com slash techno follow our expert contributors on twitter facebook instagram google plus and more. going green bacteria in a boardroom and. escaping from volcanic well. this is really the halls of innovation in the for what happened to experiments. and.
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pakistan withdraws its ambassador to india as more fighting kills four soldiers in any indian administered kashmir. this is ouster on live from doha also coming up a report from brazil's border where hundreds of venezuelans seek medical help and claim asylum every day. israel creates a new law to withhold millions of dollars and palestinian funds. and sophisticated cyber attack on strike his major political pawn.