Narrator: This is Science Today. Soil scientist Ronald Amundson of the University of California, Berkeley has been searching the Great Plains for virgin soils. Amidst an expanse of corn and soybean farms, he found that the only undisturbed tracts of tall grass prairie left lie next to the graves of the first settlers.
Amundson: When we conducted a study of natural soils in the Great Plains, in many cases we were restricted to working in corners of cemeteries that were established in the 1800s when the whole area was indeed a prairie.
Narrator: According to Amundson these small patches of undisturbed natural ecosystem are invaluable for understanding the historical record of the Great Plains.
Amundson: So it's somewhat ironic that the settlers who sort of spearheaded the development of the Great Plains, by their death they actually preserved or set aside small tracts that still remain today, so we were able to take advantage of that in our research.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.