Central Great Plains (ecoregion)
|Central Great Plains|
Central Great Plains (area 27 on the map)
|Biome||Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands|
|State||Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska|
The Central Great Plains are a semi-arid prairie ecoregion of the central United States, part of North American Great Plains. The region runs from west-central Texas, west-central Oklahoma, central Kansas and south-central Nebraska. It is designated as the Central and Southern Mixed Grasslands ecoregion by the World Wildlife Fund.
This is a large grassland area with very few trees running north-south from central Nebraska through central Kansas and western Oklahoma to north-central Texas, covering 282,000 km2. This is a transition zone between the Central tall grasslands and Central forest-grasslands transition ecoregions to the east and the Western short grasslands to the west, while to the north lie the Northern mixed grasslands which have a cooler temperature and a much shorter growing season.
The prevalent vegetation of the Central Great Plains ecoregion is a rich mixture of prairie mixed grass of medium height tallgrass and shortgrass. The ecoregion is encompassed by the tallgrass and shortgrass prairies. There are wildflowers among the grasses but very few trees and shrubs. The grasslands are heavily grazed and frequently disturbed by drought and fire. Other vegetation is drought-tolerant tree species (mesquite) and prickly pear cacti.
This prairie is used as grazing land for cattle but is also home to wild American bison. The grasslands are home to a number of prairie birds while the wetlands of the region are important stopovers for birds migrating between North America and Mexico with the Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend, Kansas and Platte River in Nebraska particularly important for migrating sandhill cranes and other waders. The region is home to a large number of reptiles. Some of the prevalent wildlife in the southern area are coyote, Striped bark scorpions, rattlesnakes, and Common house geckos.
Threats and preservation
Most of the grasslands have been converted for agriculture with only about 5% of natural habitat remaining. Indeed this area was so heavily overcultivated that it was damaged during the 1930s Dust Bowl period in which the topsoil was blown away in dust storms. The grasslands have since recovered but are cropland and managed grazing ranges rather than unspoilt pasture. The small remaining blocks of intact habitat include: in Oklahoma the Wichita Mountains and the Great Salt Plains Lake; in Nebraska the Platte River State Park near Louisville, Nebraska and the Rainwater Basins to the south; in Kansas the Cheyenne Bottoms, the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, near the town of Stafford, the Red Hills and Smoky Hills areas. These consist of patches of intact grassland on the rangeland and most is unprotected, although the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which is a refuge for bison and Black-capped Vireo, and the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge are fairly large protected areas.
- Hoekstra, J. M.; Molnar, J. L.; Jennings, M.; Revenga, C.; Spalding, M. D.; Boucher, T. M.; Robertson, J. C.; Heibel, T. J.; Ellison, K. (2010). Molnar, J. L., ed. The Atlas of Global Conservation: Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities to Make a Difference. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26256-0.
- World Wildlife Fund (2001). "Central and Southern mixed grasslands". WildWorld Ecoregion Profile. National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 2010-03-08.
- Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT)
- NPAT protected prairies
- The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
- Connemara Conservancy
- Soil Physics at Oklahoma State
- Weeds of the Blackland Prairie
- Texas counties map showing the ecoregion