Environmental policymakers value ancient forests, but old-growth grasslands have not received the same recognition. That’s a mistake, Texas A&M experts say.
New old-growth grassland study
Joseph Veldman, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, has been working to counter the misperception that Earth’s grasslands and savannas are ecologically depauperate places that are degraded by fire and large grazing animals.
Back in 2015, Veldman led an international group of ecologists to publish a foundational paper, which argued that the concept of “old growth,” a term long applied to ancient forests, should be extended to ancient grasslands and savannas. Whereas antiquity in forests can often be seen in large trees, signs of age in old-growth grasslands are often hidden underground, in roots and buried stems, or in distinctive communities of rare or endemic plants.
Now Ashish Nerlekar, a Texas A&M doctoral student, and Veldman are bringing a new scientific study to the discussion, with their recently published article “High plant diversity and slow assembly of old-growth grasslands” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.