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The tallgrass prairie ecosystem of the North American Corn Belt region has experienced major alteration of hydrologic systems, nearly complete loss of natural perennial vegetation, and concomitant decline in species due to agricultural intensification. In this working landscape, restoration to pre-European settlement conditions is doubtful. However, current research posits that restoring strategically placed patches of perennial cover across agricultural watersheds, such as stream buffers, wetlands and prairies, as well as instituting more diverse cropping rotations, could bolster current ecological function and enhance the conservation of species. These studies also suggest that such restoration might increase socio-economic resilience in the region's declining rural communities. Yet, farmers and policymakers show little awareness of, or appreciation for, such initiatives. In an effort to understand why, we are studying how ecological restoration meshes with the culture and values of Corn Belt farmers. We also seek to identify connections and leverage points that may bridge gaps between science, people, and policy in restoration initiatives.
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Atwell, Ryan C.; Schulte, Lisa A.; and Westphal, Lynne M., "Restoring Perennial Cover and Ecological Function to Corn Belt Landscapes: The Iowa Farmer's Perspective" (2006). Natural Resource Ecology and Management Publications. 155.