The Tallgrass Prairie is a biome feature in our mod that is very similar to Vanilla Minecraft’s grassland biome, but its roots of origin also lie deeper, in the American Midwest. Picturing a prairie, it is easy to imagine flowers of every color of the rainbow and grasses as tall as a person. As the world’s tallgrass prairies vanish, this article will offer insights on conservation and what it means to be a prairie.
What defines a tallgrass prairie? These prairies typically have higher rainfall than other prairies more typical of Western grasslands. While dry soil and low rainfall contributes to the Western shortgrass prairies, tallgrass prairies occur even in temperate conditions when there is enough rainfall to supplement greater plant growth. Among the characteristics of tallgrass prairies fire resilience, forcing the land to host faster growing plants like grasses instead of trees. Trees, when they burn, don’t grow back easily or quickly, so burnt land is much more likely to be home to the kinds of plants that can periodically regrow by the seasons. Drier seasons typical of summer months can lead to burns that destroy plant growth, depositing carbon and nutrients back into the seed-containing soil. Historically fires were caused by humans or by lightning, but these are not the only elements that tended to the prairies.
While fires protect from forest encroachment and thoroughly ensure survival of nutrient cycles, large grazing animals are historic caretakers of the tallgrass prairies. The American Bison, now very limited in their surviving range were once numerous across the American Midwest. These large herding mammals grazed among the grasses which also prevented encroachment of other habitats. With great size, large amounts of waste were produced that returned important nutrients to the soil such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Bison have since been hunted and removed, in part leading to a decline in the once-widespread tallgrass prairies. Urban development, and especially agricultural expansion over the fertile and easily plowable prairie soil swiftly lead to the demise of the tallgrass prairies. The flat terrain typical of Midwestern topography meant that cities could easily be built over the prairies. Inventions like the steel plow were essential to uprooting the prairie grasses and converting the land. Only mere fragments exist of what was once a vast ecosystem.
Conservation efforts are a surviving hope in the tale of the tallgrass prairie. Their intrinsic beauty and unique biodiversity has drawn attention to the protection of what remains of this fantastic environment. New methods of maintaining historic diversity include measures like prescribed burning, or controlled prairie fires that allow prairies to benefit from the same services as wildfires. Spreading awareness and teaching the past of a feature central to American history helps ensure that not only are remaining tallgrass prairies conserved, but that land across the Midwest can also be restored by individuals or groups who find value in the treasured landmark. Humans are especially important in managing invasive species which are frequently a human-caused plight against the natural world. Invasive species pose ever-increasing risk on the last surviving tallgrass prairies, so it is essential that human intervention can tackle Midwest prairie conservation and restoration from every dimension.
In a content update that revolved around flowers, we felt the tallgrass prairie was essential to showcasing our new blocks. Looking around the tallgrass prairie, the player will notice there is a far greater amount of double grass, which produces a stronger sense of detachment from real world and a heightened feel of exploration, both of which are principals of the infinite expanse in a Minecraft world. By sharing elements of the beauty that lay within the real world’s “map,” the power to improve aspects of Minecraft gameplay is found.