You must have seen extreme ecosystems at many places such as the forests which have an extreme variety of flora and fauna and on the other hand, there are deserts where very little flora and fauna are found. There is always a transitional zone between these two extreme ranges. These transitional zones are known by various names in the world and here in this article, we will be talking about one of them. In this article, we will cover what is a prairie and all the various related concepts so that you will be able to understand one of the most important concepts of the environment. Here, we will discuss this transitional zone in North America.
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The grasslands mean a place that is covered with different kinds of grass which also includes small types of trees and shrubs. These are wild grasses and these grasslands serve as a transitional zone between the desert areas and the forest areas. They are kind of ecozones between these two ecosystems which have their own features, climate & weather, flora, and fauna, etc. Some of the famous grasslands of the world are the Pampas, the Prairies, the Velds, the Savannah, the Stepped, and the Downs. They can be divided into two major types i.e. Temperate and Tropical.
In different places of the world, the grasslands have named by different names which one is included is Prairie grasslands which is an example of temperate grasslands. It has emerged from the Rocky mountains. These types of grasslands are flat. It is a composition of grasses, herbs, and shrubs. These are normally tall and short. These are the grasslands which are referred to as golden wheat lands. The eastern regions have moisture whereas the western regions are much drier. These can be majorly divided into two types;
Tall Grass Prairie: The regions of prairie which are having rich and fertile soil and receive moderate precipitation and where tall grasses are found which are over 5 feet in height.
Short Grass Prairie: These are the areas with little precipitation and where short grass is found which are generally less than 2 feet and which are not suitable for agricultural purposes.
Mixed Grass Prairie: This is a kind of prairie grass that serves as an ecotone between the above two grass types and it has more ecological diversity than the above-mentioned ones.
Location and Distribution in Map
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It is one of the major grasslands of the world.
It is found in the continent of North America where it is distributed between the United States of America, Canada, and Mexico.
It includes the areas of great plains as well as the wet and hilly land areas of the east.
The Rocky Mountains are on the west whereas the Appalachian mountains are on the eastern side of these grasslands.
It is a kind of major vegetation in North America and it covers almost 15% of the land area of this continent.
Here we have the following features of the prairie grasslands:
It is a region of flat, gently sloping, and hilly land.
These grasslands formed around 8,000 years ago and they are one of the most recent developed ecosystems in the United States.
There are no trees but at some places like near the lakes, Woodland can be found. Tall trees only reach up to the height of 2 meters.
They also provide great habitat for the wild animals which are living there.
There is no need for pesticides and any other chemicals because they can adapt themselves very well.
They have a rich source of soil and there we can grow wheat and other crops.
People also go for livestock and grazing here.
The most important and productive soils are black, dark grey, and dark brown soil found in the Aspen Parkland, tall grass as well as mixed-grass prairies.
Bunchgrass Prairie can also be found here. Basically, it is a kind of grass that is found in bunches and found in the habitats of grasslands.
The Climate of Prairie Grassland
The climate of the grasslands is different according to the different types of places. The climate of the Prairie Grassland has the utmost temperature according to the region. It is present in the heart of the continent thus it experiences continental climate along with extreme temperatures. In the summer, a warm type of climate is found at 20°C and if there is winter then the temperature will reach up to - 20° C and also covered with snow during this season. It receives moderate rainfall which provides favourable conditions for this grassland. On the other hand, a local wind namely "Chinook" blows here.
Let's talk about the prairies vegetation:
Tallgrass regions are completely cultivated with over 90% have been converted to crop production. The tall grasses include the big bluestem, the little bluestem, switchgrass as well as Indiangrass.
About 75% of the areas of mixed-grass prairies are also diverted to cultivation or non-native species.
The major crop found here is maize whereas potatoes, soybean, cotton, etc are the other crops.
Naturally, this region is dominated by Speargrass, Wheatgrass as well as Blue Grama grass.
The areas of lakes and wetlands are rich in vegetation. There are almost 1.6 to 7.1 million wetlands in the region of ecozone depending upon the different locations.
Except in the eastern regions, some deciduous trees and shrubs are also grown in the ecozone regions.
In the areas of water, willows, poplars, and alders trees can be found.
Various distinct types of animals are found here such as from large mammals to invertebrates. The various animals found here include bison, black-tailed jackrabbit, burrowing owl, American toad California condor, carrion beetle, common snipe, badger, black-footed ferret, coyote, deer, dragonfly, eagles, bumblebee, elk, ferruginous hawk, fox snake, golden owl, gopher snake, grasshopper, gray wolf, ground squirrels, etc. whereas the others are killdeer, monarch butterfly, northern grasshopper mouse, prairie chicken, prairie dog, prairie rattlesnake, prairie skink, pronghorn antelope, red fox, red-tailed hawk, lady beetle, larks, long-billed curlew, meadow vole, shrew, skunk, stink bug, tiger beetle, western tiger swallowtail, western meadowlark, white-tailed jackrabbit, and various others.
Among these animals, bison were hunted by the natives for food and clothing, and only 1000 species were left at the end of the 19th century and now it is no longer a keystone species here. If we talk about the Prairie dogs, they are not actually dogs but a squirrel which sounds like a dog's bark and got their name because of this habitat.
It is basically a naturally occurring event here and it also helps in maintaining its health.
Vegetation found here in the prairies is actually adapted to warm temperatures and fires.
They are important because it helps the grassland to become a forest and plays a vital role in the development of tall grass.
Here, the fire can move at a speed of 600 feet per minute with around 700°F.
These fires do not destroy the prairies but help in the renewal process of this grassland.
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Did You Know?
There is National Prairie Day which is celebrated every year on the first Saturday of the month of June. This day of celebration was founded in 2016 by the National Prairie Foundation to spread awareness about the Prairie grasslands and for their protection, restoration as well as conservation.
Thus, to conclude we can say that grasslands have their own importance and equal distribution on the planet which serves as a transitional zone between two extreme ranges of deserts and forests and prairie is one of them which is a kind of temperate grassland that is found in North America and plays a great role in the geography of this continent. In this article we have comprehensively covered and learned what is a prairie and about prairie animals and vegetation, prairie grass, their temperature, and climatic conditions, etc. This article will surely help you in learning one of the most important grasslands of the world. You can learn the various features of other major grasslands as well that have been shown in the world map above.