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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

46. Northern Glaciated Plains

46g. Northern Black Prairie Level IV Ecoregion


North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

46a. Pembina Escarpment

46b. Turtle Mountains

46c. Glacial Lake Basins

46d. Glacial Lake Deltas

46e. Tewaukon Dead Ice Moraine

46f. End Moraine Complex

46g. Northern Black Prairie

46h. Northern Dark Brown Prairie

46i. Drift Plains

46j. Glacial Outwash

46k. Prairie Coteau

46l. Prairie Coteau Escarpment

46m. Big Souix Basin

46n. James River Lowland

46o. Minnesota River Priaire

  The Northern Glaciated Plains ecoregion is characterized by a flat to gently rolling landscape composed of glacial drift. The subhumid conditions foster a grassland transitional between the tall and shortgrass prairie. High concentrations of temporary and seasonal wetlands create favorable conditions for duck nesting and migration. Though the till soil is very fertile, agricultural success is subject to annual climatic fluctuations.

JPG - Aerial view of wetlands in a field
On the drift plains (46g, 46i, and 46n), cultivation occurs around or through the numerous temporary and seasonal wetlands.

The Northern Black Prairie represents a broad phenological transition zone marking the introduction from the north of a boreal influence in climate. Aspen and birch appear in wooded areas, willows grow on wetland perimeters, and rough fescue, common to the Rocky Mountain foothills, becomes evident in grassland associations. This ecoregion has the shortest growing season and the lowest January temperatures of any level IV ecoregion in the Dakotas. Most of the area is used for growing small grains, with durum wheat being a major crop.


Area (square miles): 5040

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 1500-1970/5-200

Glaciated. Generally flat, with occasional "washboard" undulations. High concentrations of temporary and seasonal wetlands. Simple drainage pattern.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Glacial till over Cretaceous Pierre Shale (check west) and Tertiary Ft. Union Formation.


Order (Great Groups)
Mollisols (Haploborolls, Natriborolls, Calciaquolls, Calciborolls, Argiaquolls)

Common Soil Series
Barnes, Svea, Cresbard, Hamerly, Buse, Parnell

Temperature/Moisture Regimes


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

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

Potential Natural Vegetation

Northern prairie: western wheatgrass, green needlegrass, little bluestem, blue grama, and rough fescue.

Land Use and Land Cover

Extensively tilled to durum and spring wheat, other small grains, sunflowers and alfalfa.

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