USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Ecoregions of
North Dakota
and
South Dakota

44. Nebraska Sand Hills


44a. Nebraska Sand Hills Level IV Ecoregion

Home

North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

44a. Nebraska Sand Hills

  The Nebraska Sand Hills ecoregion is the largest grass-stabilized dune region in the Western Hemisphere. This "sand sea" formed in the last 8,000 years, following the Pleistocene glaciations. The region is largely treeless and lacks tilled agriculture. Precipitation passes through the porous sands to continually recharge ground water, resulting in interdune areas of wetlands, lakes, and streams with a relatively constant annual discharge. The Sand Hills are an important recharge area for the Ogallala aquifer.

JPG - Aerial view of sandhills
Photo by Jim Swinehart, University of Nebraska

The profile of wavelike dunes on the horizon and a broad expanse of sky characterize this northern outpost of the Nebraska Sand Hills. Cattle ranching is the predominant land use in the region. The prairie grass associations are specific to the sandy environment, but the fragile vegetative cover is susceptible to blowouts, prompting ranchers to employ rotational grazing strategies to maintain it.

Physiography

Area (square miles): 488

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 2900-3500/120-300

Sand sheets and extensive fields of barchanoid, parabolic, and domal sand dunes. High water table, interdune wetlands.

Geology

Surficial Material and Bedrock
Eolian sand over Miocene soft sandstone.

Soil

Order (Great Groups)
Entisols (Ustipsamments)

Common Soil Series
Valentine

Temperature/Moisture Regimes
Mesic/Ustic

Climate

Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)
16-17

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)
140-150

Mean Temp. - Jan. min/max; July min/max, (°F)
9/36;58/91

Potential Natural Vegetation

Sand associated grasses: Sand bluestem, little bluestem, prairie sandreed. Big bluestem and switchgrass in wetter interdune areas.

Land Use and Land Cover

Cattle ranching, some hayland. Grassland cover.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/habitat/ndsdeco/44a.htm
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Saturday, 02-Feb-2013 04:50:14 EST
Menlo Park, CA [caww54]