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Welcome to the Mid-South Prairie Symposium

May 25-27, 2016

The Mid-South Prairie Symposium will be held May 25-27, 2016 at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee (click here for directions). The symposium, hosted by Austin Peay State University's Center of Excellence for Field Biology and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT), with sponsorship from more than a dozen agencies, non-profits, and companies, will bring together those interested in grasslands of the east-central U.S. Click here for more information on our sponsors. This event will be open to both laymen and experts. Invited speakers will share their expertise on the ecology, conservation, restoration, and management of grasslands (prairies, barrens, savannas, and open woodlands) of the Mid-South U.S.  The symposium will feature a day-and-a-half of presentations and posters. Originally we had planned to offer two concurrent sessions of invited presentations on Day 1 but due to greater than expected interest we have decided to offer a half-day speaker session at the beginning of Day 2. 

The theme of the Symposium is "If we rebuild it, will they come?"  In other words, if we take forests that were once savannas or the cornfields that were once prairie and attempt to restore these sites back to grasslands to match natural examples as closely as possible, will the conservative plants and animals come back?  The situation of grasslands in the Mid-South is dire. We simply don't have the luxury of being able to work with 1,000-acre natural remnants. If we want landscape-scale projects we will have to rebuild them from scratch in most cases or undertake major restoration in others. We want to bring in experts who can guide this process using tried and tested methods that have been successful in other regions of the eastern U.S.  

Day 1 Invited Speaker Session (full day): will feature speakers who can report on successful projects and proven methods of restoration from the greater east-central U.S. region. Grassland restoration is still a relatively new concept in the Mid-South and we want to bring in speakers from places like Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, and Iowa who can share their experience with proven projects with us to help us improve our efforts to preserve and restore grasslands.

Day 2 Invited Speaker Session (half day): will be focused specifically on the Pennyroyal Plain Ecoregion and directly adjacent provinces (Shawnee Hills, Mammoth Cave/Crawford Uplands, Elizabethtown Plain, Mitchell Plain, Highland Rim). This session is intended to bring together individuals committed to the preservation and restoration of grasslands of these specific regions.


Topics to be discussed include:

  1. a review of the types and status of Mid-South grasslands
  2. mapping and documenting grassland remnants
  3. government conservation programs that can be used to acquire, preserve, restore, and recreate grasslands  
  4. management strategies to restore degraded natural remnants
  5. importance and longevity of seedbanks
  6. use of prescribed fire to manage prairies
  7. use of herbicides to manage non-native and invasive species of prairies
  8. re-creating prairies on agricultural landscapes
  9. use of species-rich, local genotype mixes for restoration
  10. restoration of prairie wetlands
  11. use of restored or recreated prairies by birds 
  12. prairie restoration and native pollinators
  13. native grasslands as potential rangelands for cattle
  14. prairie restoration along transportation corridors
  15. creating backyard prairies and using grassland species in landscaping
  16. incorporating volunteers and citizen-scientists into grassland conservation/restoration projects
  17. market-driven approaches to conservation
  18. planning of conservation corridors

(May Prairie State Natural, Coffee Co., TN, photo by Todd Crabtree, TN Division of Natural Areas)