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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Soil, Water & Air Resources Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #371456

Research Project: Managing Energy and Carbon Fluxes to Optimize Agroecosystem Productivity and Resilience

Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Title: The Prairie States Forestry Project - looking back to see the way forward

item Sauer, Thomas - Tom
item CHENDEV, YURY - Belgorod State University
item BREVIK, ERIC - Dickinson State University
item TYNDALL, JOHN - Iowa State University
item WACHA, KENNETH - Orise Fellow
item GENNADIEV, ALEXANDER - Moscow State University

Submitted to: Soil and Water Conservation Society Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/30/2020
Publication Date: 7/29/2020
Citation: Sauer, T.J., Chendev, Y.G., Brevik, E.C., Tyndall, J.C., Wacha, K.M., Gennadiev, A. 2020. The Prairie States Forestry Project - looking back to see the way forward. Soil and Water Conservation Society Proceedings. July 27-29, 2020.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: As the severe drought of the 1930’s worsened in the U.S. Great Plains, the Roosevelt Administration directed the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a feasibility analysis for a tree planting program. The resulting report “Possibilities of Shelterbelt Planting in the Plains Region” was a comprehensive analysis of vegetation, climate, soil, hydrology, economics, and social science of a six state area with the objective of convincing Congress that a tree planting program could alleviate drought conditions. The report contained a seminal map “Location of the shelterbelt zone with factors limiting its westward extension” that became the de-facto symbol of what was officially known as the Prairie States Forestry Project (PSFP). The PSFP organized the planting of 217 million trees from 1935 to 1942 and remains the largest afforestation project in U.S. history. Details on the science behind the development of the shelterbelt zone map and the operation and success of the PSFP will be presented. The PSFP, which was essentially a climate change adaptation project, will be reviewed with regard to its use as a potential model for future agroforestry projects. Trees in agricultural landscapes as windbreaks, riparian buffers, alley cropping, and silvopastures can contribute to climate change mitigation by sequestering carbon in biomass and soil and climate change adaptation by modifying local microclimates to dampen weather extremes. Data from recent studies of Great Plains windbreaks will be presented to provide examples of potential benefits for soil conservation and agroecosystem resiliency.