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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

43. Northwestern Great Plains

43j. Moreau Prairie Level IV Ecoregion


North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

43a. Missouri Plateau

43b. Little Missouri Badlands

43c. River Breaks

43d. Forested Buttes

43e. Sagebrush Steppe

43f. Subhumid Pierre Shale Plains

43g. Semiarid Pierre Shale Plains

43h. White River Badlands

43i. Keya Paha Tablelands

43j. Moreau Prairie

43k. Dense Clay Prairie

  The Northwestern Great Plains ecoregion encompasses the Missouri Plateau section of the Great Plains. It is a semiarid rolling plain of shale, siltstone, and sandstone punctuated by occasional buttes and badlands. Native grasslands persist in areas of steep or broken topography, but they have been largely replaced by spring wheat and alfalfa over most of the ecoregion. Agriculture is limited by erratic precipitation patterns and limited opportunities for irrigation.

GIF - Buffalo
Bison have been reestablished on public and private land in the western Dakotas.

Occasional buttes, areas of badlands, and numerous salt pans appear on the Moreau Prairie. The soils derived from the Hell Creek formation tend to be alkaline, and make this ecoregion less productive agriculturally than the areas surrounding it (ecoregion 43a). most of the region is grazed by cattle, sheep, and antelope.


Area (square miles): 4138

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 2100-3200/120-250

Unglaciated. Level to rolling plains with occasional buttes, badland formations, and salt pans.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Upper Cretaceous sandstone and shale (Hell Creek Formation).


Order (Great Groups)
Aridisols (Natrargids), Alfisols (Natrustalfs), Mollisols (Natriborolls, Argiborolls, Haploborolls), Inceptisols (Ustochrepts)

Common Soil Series
Bullock, Parchin, Absher, Rhoades, Sorum, Reeder, Amor, Ekalaka, Janesburg, Moreau, Twilight

Temperature/Moisture Regimes
Frigid, Mesic/Ustic, Aridic


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

Mean Temp. - Jan. min/max; July min/max, (°F)

Potential Natural Vegetation

Mixed prairie of western wheatgrass, green needlegrass, blue grama and buffalograss.

Land Use and Land Cover

Mostly cattle and sheep ranching. Occasional dryland farming of wheat and alfalfa.

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