Rebecca McCulley/Univ. of Kentucky
Guest post by Gabriel Popkin
Diverse tallgrass prairies once covered about 10 percent of the United States, but farming and grazing have reduced the habitats to a handful of small remnants.
Scientists studied the genes of bacterial communities living in some of those prairie remnants and discovered that the grassy areas have far more Verrucomicrobia, a little studied group of bacteria, than agricultural soils do. These bacteria are experts in breaking down complex carbon-containing structures such as the roots of prairie plants.
The finding, which appears in the Nov. 1 Science, could assist thousands of prairie restoration projects throughout the Midwest.