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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

46. Northern Glaciated Plains

46i. Drift Plains 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.

On the Drift Plains, the retreating Wisconsinan glaciers left a subtle undulating topography and a thick mantle of glacial till. A greater proportion of temporary and seasonal wetlands are found on the drift plains than in the coteau areas, where semipermanent wetlands are numerous. Because of the productive soil and level topography, this ecoregion is almost entirely cultivated, with many wetlands drained or simply tilled and planted. However, valuable waterfowl habitat still remains, concentrated in state and federally sponsored duck production areas. The historic grassland on the Drift Plains was a transitional mix of tallgrass and shortgrass prairie. The prairie grasses have been largely replaced by fields of spring wheat, barley, sunflowers, and alfalfa.


Area (square miles): 15609

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 1080-2000/0-200

Glaciated. Generaly 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 and Fox Hills Formations.


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

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

Western wheatgrass, big and little bluestem, switchgrass, and indiangrass.

Land Use and Land Cover

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

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