October 27, 2022
Retired chair of the University of Wyoming Department of Botany Dennis Knight is co-author of a book that shines a light on the northern Great Plains and blends the natural and human histories of the region.
Knight, professor emeritus of botany and former president of the Ecological Society of America, co-authored the book with W. Carter Johnson, professor emeritus at South Dakota State University. Titled “Ecology of Dakota Landscapes: Past, Present and Future,” the book was published by Yale University Press this year with support from UW’s Biodiversity Institute.
Knight and Johnson describe the natural and human histories of the Northern Great Plains in their comprehensive and well-illustrated book. Covering a vast period, they move from geological developments of millions of years ago and the effects of glaciers to historical and ecological developments of recent centuries, including the effects of agriculture and climate change.
The two retired professors bring decades of experience to the chapters on the Dakotas’ major ecosystems. Written for readers from diverse backgrounds and with discussions of the Prairie Pothole Country, Missouri River, Prairies, Cropland, Woods, Black Hills, Badlands, Rivers, Lakes and wetlands, the book aims to be a lasting source of information. . The book contains over 200 color photographs, maps and other illustrations.
The book ends with a discussion of the future of the Northern Great Plains region, with recommendations on how to balance agriculture and other pressing needs in the 21st century.
“’Ecology of Dakota Landscapes’ is simply a grand and wonderful book. If an apocalypse wiped out all libraries and repositories of knowledge, this single volume would preserve the most important knowledge and insights about the Dakotas,” says reviewer Dan Binkley, who wrote “Forest Ecology: An Evidence-Based Approach.”
A UW faculty member from 1966 to 2001, Knight taught courses in ecology, ecosystem analysis, and the application of ecological concepts to land management. Dakota’s book is similar to the one he wrote about Wyoming, “Mountains and Plains: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes,” also published by Yale University Press. First published in 1994, the book was revised and expanded for the second edition, which was completed in 2014 and co-authored with George Jones, retired associate director of the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database. at UW; William Reiners, emeritus professor of botany at UW; and William Romme, a UW alumnus and professor emeritus at Colorado State University.
“We’re writing this kind of book for anyone who wants to learn more about the environmental and land management issues of where they live, not just for map-holding scientists,” says Knight. “In both books, almost every chapter contains a section on the implications of climate change in the future, and we describe how farmers, ranchers, wildlife managers and the general public have benefited from using the information. ecological.”