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Iowa Prairie Facts

  • 85% of Iowa's landmass was once covered by prairie.
  • Of the 30 million acres of prairie that existed at the time European settling, less than one-tenth of one percent remains.
  • The Loess Hills of western Iowa contains the largest amount of prairie fragments left in Iowa.
  • The Iowa prairie originated 9,000-10,000 years ago, after the retreat of the last glaciers. The flattened landscape that the glaciers carved became the ideal spot for prairie plants to grow.
  • Once established, the roots of native prairie plants help prevent erosion by holding the soil together. When these plants are removed, erosion can take place more easily.
  • The deep roots of prairie plants also prevent the growth of invasive species (leaving them almost no soil to grow in).
  • Prairie plants have evolved to withstand fires, in fact, many prairies need to be burned every few years to be able to seed properly.
  • The Iowa prairies reached their peak approximately 5,000 years ago, and were still thriving 300 years ago, when the first European settlers arrived.
  • There are three types of prairie in Iowa: tallgrass prairie, shortgrass prairie, and mixed prairie. Our project deals with the tallgrass prairie fragment at Ames High School.

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