|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 semiarid prairie ecoregion of the central United States, part of North American Great Plains. The region runs from west-central Texas through 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 large grassland area with very few trees runs north–south from central Nebraska through central Kansas and western Oklahoma to north-central Texas, covering 109,000 sq mi (282,000 km2). It 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 grasses of medium height. The ecoregion is encompassed by the tallgrass and shortgrass prairies. Wildflowers occur among the grasses, but very few trees and shrubs do. The grasslands are heavily grazed and frequently disturbed by drought and fire. Other vegetation is drought-tolerant species honey mesquite and prickly pear cacti.
The Central Great Plains prairie is part of the historical native rangeland of the Great Plains endemic American bison. It has been converted for use as grazing land for cattle since the 19th century.
The grasslands are home habitat for a resident prairie birds, while the wetlands of the region are important stopovers for birds migrating between North America and Mexico. The Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend, Kansas, and the Platte River in Nebraska are particularly important for migrating sandhill cranes and other waders.
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 unspoiled native grasses and perennials pasture.
The small remaining blocks of intact habitat include:
- Oklahoma — the Wichita Mountains, and the Great Salt Plains Lake in Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge
- Nebraska — the Platte River State Park near Louisville, Nebraska, and the Rainwater Basins to the south
- Kansas — the Cheyenne Bottoms, the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge near the town of Stafford, the Red Hills, and the Smoky Hills areas
These protected areas consist of patches of intact native grassland amid cultivated rangeland, and most of the remaining natural habitats of the Great Plains are unprotected. The two largest protected areas are the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge for bison and black-capped vireo, and the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.
- The Great Plains Ecoregion
- Flora of the Great Plains (North America)
- Great Plains—related topics
- Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands in the United States — biome's ecoregions in the U.S.
- List of ecoregions in the United States (EPA)
- List of ecoregions in the United States (WWF)
- 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, ed. (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