Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Reintroduction and restoration programs can benefit from examination of the context of the larger forces influencing ecosystem change. The Prairie Ecozone is one of the most severely impacted ecosystems in Canada, particularly in relation to changes in the extent, distribution and composition of native prairie habitat for wildlife. Conversion of native prairie to cropland has been the primary factor altering the majority of shortgrass and tallgrass prairie and aspen parkland habitats. Urban development and transportation have impacted on much of the remaining land. Prairie conservation efforts now tend to focus on remaining native prairie and on rangelands used primarily for extensive cattle grazing.
Fragmentation, size reduction, and isolation of habitats create impediments for species reintroductions and large area ecological restoration on the prairies. This paper describes biophysical changes in Canadian prairie habitats at landscape and ecoregion levels relative to changing human land uses and the socio-cultural and economic forces that have driven land use change. It discusses the implications of those changes and forces for swift fox conservation, prairie ecological restoration in general and issues of ecosystem management of the prairies.