Prairies consisting of grasses and forbs, are an important part of any ecosystem where they occur. They provide key habitat for many species of wildlife, serving as important breeding, feeding, nesting, and brood-rearing centers.
Prairie plants encourage infiltration of water into the soil because their root systems are deep. Better percolation increases recharge of ground water. Besides making better use of water, they are very efficient at removing nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from the soil. These long-lived plants can tolerate seasonal flooding, drought, and other severe environmental events.
Fires, whether occurring naturally or lit deliberately by Native Americans, played a dominant role in the ecosystem because they encouraged native grasses and wildflower to grow and discouraged the encroachment of trees and shrubs.