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Estimated historical distribution of grassland communities of the Southern Great Plains

December 7, 2016

The purpose of this project was to map the estimated distribution of grassland communities of the Southern Great Plains prior to Euro-American settlement. The Southern Great Plains Rapid Ecoregional Assessment (REA), under the direction of the Bureau of Land Management and the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative, includes four ecoregions: the High Plains, Central Great Plains, Southwestern Tablelands, and the Nebraska Sand Hills. The REA advisors and stakeholders determined that the mapping accuracy of available national land-cover maps was insufficient in many areas to adequately address management questions for the REA. Based on the recommendation of the REA stakeholders, we estimated the potential historical distribution of 10 grassland communities within the Southern Great Plains project area using data on soils, climate, and vegetation from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) including the Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) and Ecological Site Information System (ESIS). The dominant grassland communities of the Southern Great Plains addressed as conservation elements for the REA area are shortgrass, mixed-grass, and sand prairies. We also mapped tall-grass, mid-grass, northwest mixed-grass, and cool season bunchgrass prairies, saline and foothill grasslands, and semi-desert grassland and steppe. Grassland communities were primarily defined using the annual productivity of dominant species in the ESIS data. The historical grassland community classification was linked to the SSURGO data using vegetation types associated with the predominant component of mapped soil units as defined in the ESIS data. We augmented NRCS data with Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools (LANDFIRE) Biophysical Settings classifications 1) where NRCS data were unavailable and 2) where fifth-level watersheds intersected the boundary of the High Plains ecoregion in Wyoming. Spatial data representing the estimated historical distribution of grassland communities of the Southern Great Plains are provided as a 30 x 30-meter gridded surface (raster dataset). This information will help to address the priority management questions for grassland communities for the Southern Great Plains REA and can be used to inform other regional-level land management decisions.

Publication Year 2016
Title Estimated historical distribution of grassland communities of the Southern Great Plains
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161184
Authors Gordon C. Reese, Daniel J. Manier, Natasha B. Carr, Ramana Callan, Ian I.F. Leinwand, Timothy J. Assal, Lucy Burris, Drew A. Ignizio
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2016-1184
Index ID ofr20161184
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center; Core Science Analytics, Synthesis, and Libraries