The Biome of Prarires

By: Allanna Marrow

Where is are prarires located in the biosphere?

  • Prarires are mostly located here in the U.S.. They are commonly found in of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan make up the Great Plains. The prairies in North America formed as the Rocky Mountains grew taller and taller.

What organism adaptations have evolved for survival in prarires?

In prairies, native wildflowers species (forbs) outnumber grass species and account for most of the plant diversity. These grasslands are home to an incredibly diverse flora including approximately 80 endemic species whose populations are found only in California’s coastal prairies (Ford and Hayes 2007). Most of these unique plants are annual and perennial forbs (non-woody broadleaf plants, including wildflowers) Some mammal species might include Tule Elk, Black-tailed deer, Black bear, California Grizzly Bear, Badgers, Botta's Pocket Gophers amongst others. Some birds would include Raptors, Northern Harrier, Red-tail Hawk, White-tail kite. And with these are others such as snakes, lizards, insects and ticks.

What is the dominant vegetation found in prairies?

Like other vegetation types, coastal prairie community types are named after the species in the stand with the most ground cover. In coastal prairie, these species are often perennial or annual grasses. Native perennial grasses most common in coastal prairies of Sonoma and Marin Counties are California oatgrass, tufted hairgrass, and Pacific reedgrass.

What meteorological elements impact the characteristics of prairies?

  • Precipitation in the prairies can reach from about 12.6 inches in the shortgrass prairie to 21.7 inches in the tallgrass prairies.

  • The prairies were maintained in their natural state by climate, grazing and fire. Rainfall varies from year to year in the prairies. There is usually a long dry period during the summer months. Every 30 years or so there is a long drought period which lasts for several years. The most famous drought was in the 1930s, when the prairies were called the "Dust Bowl".

  • The climate of the prairies is influenced by its mid-continental location, and the sheltering effect of the Rocky Mountains. Being located far from the moderating effects of oceans causes a wide range of temperatures, with hot summers and cold winters. Strong winds blow across the endless plains during both summer and winter.

  • Every one to five years fire would spread across any given area of land. These fires moved rapidly across the land and did not penetrate into the soil very far. They killed most saplings, and removed the thatch of dead grasses, allowing early flowering spring species to grow.

  • Prairie plants have adapted to fires by growing underground storage structures, and having their growth points slightly below ground surface. The soil under a prairie is a dense mat of tangled roots, rhizomes, bulbs, and rootstock. The plants die back every winter, but are kept alive from year to year by the underground root system. Roots of prairie plants can by longer than the plant is tall. The roots of big bluestem may be 7 feet long, and switchgrass roots can be 11 feet long. Two-thirds of most prairie plant are below the ground. Some roots die each year and decompose, adding lots of organic matter to the soil. That's why the soil of prairies is so fertile.

Abiotic factors that impact prairies:

  • Humans

  • Air pollution

  • Factories
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