Conservationists trying to restore the few remaining patches of prairie in the US have recently begun using fire to promote plant diversity. But new research shows that the technique will not work unless they add something else -- herds of grazing bison. Scott Collins of the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, and his colleagues compared a number of different plots over a period of four years. Each received some combination of burning, grazing, fertilisation or mowing (to imitate the effects of grazing). The plots that had the most plant species diversity and the greatest biomass were those that were both burned and grazed. These were the conditions under which the prairies had developed, with wildfires and herds of free-roaming bison.
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