Prairies are considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type.
• Tallgrass prairies once covered 142 million acres. • Prairies once covered about 40% of the United States. • Prairies are one of the most recently developed ecosystems in North Ameica. •Prairies formed about 8,000 years ago. •About one percent of North American prairies still exists. • lowa had the largest percent of its area covered by tallgrass prairie – 30 million acres. • In lowa 99.9 percent of historic natural landscape is gone.
****These tall grasses can grow as tall as ten feet and average a height of six to eight feet. The soil underneath the prairie is a dense tangle of roots and bulbs.***** Prairie Plants •• • Over 100 plant species can occur in prairie of less than 5 acres. • The major grasses of the tall grass prairie are the big bluestem, the little blurstem, Indiangrass and switchgrass. • Some prairies plants put out roots that extend 12 feet below the prairie surface. • Each year some of the roots die.Large quantities of organic matter are Added to the soil as roots die and decompose making rich and fertile soil.
Big Bluestem Little Bluestem switchgrass Indiangrass •
Prairie Animals • Up to 60 million bison grazed on the plains and prairies of North America when European explorers first arrived and fewer than 600 existed by 1885. • An adult male bison stands about 6 ½ feet high at the shoulder. • A bison bull weighs up to 2,000 pounds and a cow weighs up to 1,000 . • Grazing was an integral part of the prairie ecosystem and Increased the growth of prairie plants. • Prairie dogs gravitated to the patches of close-cropped grass Left by grazing bison where they could watch for prowling predators. • Prior to pioneer settlement,some five billion prairie dogs in extensive Colonies spread across hundreds of miles of prairie. • Saving prairies dogs means saving prairie wildlife. Other creatures have suffered due in good part to the prairie dogs’ Decline. For example , the burrowing owl roosts and nest in prairie dog town burrows. • Prairies chickens once flourished on the grasslands .As the grass disappeared, so did the prairie chicken.Today,only about 400,000 survive in the entire country,in 11 states.
Other subterranean animals include flightless insects and grubs, and the many burrowing mammals; rodents, mice, gophers, prairie dogs and rabbits.
Prairie fires were important to the development of the tallgrass prairie as they kept The prairie from becoming a forest
Prairies fire is an important ingredient in the renewal of the prairie.
Fire does not destroy prairie grasses because they grow from the stem up rather
Than from the tips of the blade.
**Prairies fires can move as fast as 600 feet per minute and burn as hot as 700 degrees Fahrenheit. ****