Deutsch: Bison bison / Español: Bison bison / Português: Bison bison / Français: Bison bison / Italiano: Bison bison

Bison bison, commonly known as the American bison or buffalo, is a large herbivore native to North America. In the context of the environment, Bison bison plays a crucial role in the health and maintenance of grassland ecosystems. This species is a keystone species, meaning its presence and behaviors have a significant impact on the environment and other species within the ecosystem.


Bison bison is a powerful and resilient animal, characterized by its large hump over the shoulders, massive head, and thick coat that varies from dark brown to light brown. Males are larger than females, with some individuals reaching up to 2 meters in height and weighing over 900 kilograms (2000 pounds). Historically, bison roamed the plains of North America in massive herds, playing a pivotal role in shaping the landscape.

The environmental impact of Bison bison is profound. Their grazing habits promote plant diversity and help maintain the structure of grasslands. By grazing selectively and moving frequently, bison prevent any single plant species from dominating, which supports a variety of plant life. Their hooves also disturb the soil, facilitating seed dispersal and germination, and their wallowing behavior creates small depressions in the ground that can become microhabitats for other species.

Application Areas

Bison bison is relevant in various environmental contexts:

  • Grassland Management: Bison grazing patterns help maintain healthy grassland ecosystems by promoting plant diversity and preventing overgrowth.
  • Ecosystem Engineers: As keystone species, bison contribute to the creation and maintenance of habitats for other species, influencing biodiversity.
  • Conservation Biology: Bison are central to conservation efforts aimed at restoring North American grasslands and recovering species that depend on these ecosystems.
  • Cultural Significance: Bison are culturally significant to many Indigenous peoples, who view them as integral to their heritage and ecological practices.

Well-Known Examples

Notable examples of Bison bison and their environmental significance include:

  • Yellowstone National Park: Home to one of the largest free-ranging bison herds, Yellowstone provides a model for bison conservation and the ecological benefits of bison in grassland management.
  • Tallgrass Prairie Preserve: Located in Oklahoma, this preserve is one of the largest protected remnants of tallgrass prairie in North America and includes a bison herd that helps maintain the prairie ecosystem.
  • Badlands National Park: This park in South Dakota supports a thriving bison population, demonstrating the role of bison in preserving mixed-grass prairie habitats.

Treatment and Risks

Bison bison faces several environmental risks and management challenges:

  • Habitat Loss: Conversion of grasslands to agriculture and urban development has drastically reduced the natural habitat available for bison.
  • Genetic Diversity: Conservation efforts must address the genetic diversity of bison populations to prevent inbreeding and ensure healthy, resilient herds.
  • Human-Wildlife Conflict: Bison can come into conflict with agricultural interests, particularly where grazing lands overlap with farmland.
  • Disease: Bison are susceptible to diseases such as brucellosis, which can spread to livestock and impact conservation efforts.

Examples of Sentences

  1. Bison bison plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of grassland ecosystems through their grazing habits.
  2. Conservation programs for Bison bison aim to restore this keystone species to its historical range across North America.
  3. The reintroduction of Bison bison to the Great Plains has resulted in increased plant diversity and improved soil health.

Similar Terms

  • Bos taurus: Domestic cattle, which can impact grassland ecosystems similarly to bison but often with less beneficial ecological outcomes due to different grazing patterns.
  • Cervus canadensis: The elk, another large herbivore that shares habitats with bison and contributes to ecosystem dynamics.
  • Odocoileus virginianus: The white-tailed deer, a widespread herbivore in North America that influences forest and grassland environments.


Bison bison, or the American bison, is a keystone species integral to the health of North American grassland ecosystems. Through their grazing, movement, and wallowing behaviors, bison promote plant diversity, soil health, and habitat creation. Despite facing threats from habitat loss, disease, and human conflict, conservation efforts aim to restore and protect bison populations, ensuring their continued role in maintaining ecological balance and biodiversity.


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