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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prairies are considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type. Temperate grassland regions include the Pampas of Argentina, and the steppes of Russia and Central Asia.

Lands typically referred to as "prairie" tend to be in North America. The term encompasses much of the area referred to as the Great Plains of the United States and Canada. In the U.S., the area is constituted by most or all of the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, and sizable parts of the states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Minnesota. The Central Valley of California is also prairie. The Canadian Prairies occupy vast areas of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

Contents

Formation

Prairie grasses

The formation of the North American Prairies started with the upwelling of the Rocky Mountains. The mountains created a rainshadow that killed most of the trees.[citation needed]

Most prairie soil was deposited during the last glacial advance that began about 110,000 years ago. The glaciers expanding southward scraped the soil, picking up material and leveling the terrain. As the glaciers retreated about 10,000 years ago, it deposited this material in the form of till.[citation needed]

Tallgrass Prairie evolved over tens of thousands of years with the disturbances of grazing and fire. Native ungulates such as bison, elk, and white-tailed deer, roamed the expansive, diverse, plentiful grassland before European colonization of the Americas.[1] For 10,000-20,000 years native people used fire annually as a tool to assist in hunting, transportation and safety.[2] Evidence of ignition sources of fire in the tallgrass prairie are overwhelmingly human as opposed to lightning.[3] Humans, and grazing animals, were active participants in the process of prairie formation and the establishment of the diversity of graminoid and forbs species. Fire has the effect on prairies of removing trees, clearing dead plant matter, and changing the availability of certain nutrients in the soil from the ash produced. Fire kills the vascular tissue of trees, but not prairie, as up to 75% (depending on the species) of the total plant biomass is below the soil surface and will re-grow from its deep (up to 6 feet) roots. Without disturbance, trees will encroach on a grassland, cast shade, which suppresses the understory. Prairie and widely spaced Quercus trees evolved to coexist in the oak savanna ecosystem.[4]

Fertility

In spite of long recurrent droughts and occasional torrential rains, the grasslands of the Great Plains are not subject to great soil erosion. The deep, interconnected root systems of prairie grasses firmly hold the soil in place and prevent run-off of soil. When a plant dies, the fungi, bacteria and the other decomposers slowly eat the roots and leaves, returning nutrients to the soil.

These deep roots also help prairie plants to reach water in even the driest conditions. The grass suffers much less damage from dry conditions than the farm crops that have replaced many former prairies.

Types

The types of prairies in North America are usually split into three groups: wet, mesic, and dry.[5]

Wet

In this type of prairie, the soil is usually very moist most of the growing season, and has poor water drainage. This can possibly contain a bog or fen, since it often has plentiful stagnant water.

Mesic

Mesic prairies have good drainage, but have good soil moisture during the growing season. This type of prairie is the most often converted for agricultural usage, consequently it is one of the more endangered types of prairie.

Dry

Dry Prairie is a prairie which has somewhat wet to very dry soil during the growing season because of good drainage in the soil. Often, this prairie can be found on uplands or slopes.

Farming

The very dense soil plagued the first settlers who were using wooden plows, which were more suitable for loose forest soil. On the prairie the plows bounced around and the soil stuck to them. This problem was solved in 1837 by an Illinois blacksmith named John Deere who developed a steel moldboard plough that was stronger and cut the roots, making the fertile soils ready for farming.

The tallgrass prairie has been converted into one of the most intensive crop producing areas in North America. Less than one tenth of one percent (<0.09%) of the original landcover of the tallgrass prairie biome remains.[6] States formerly with landcover in native tallgrass prairie such as Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Missouri have became valued for their highly productive soils and are included in the Corn Belt. As an example of this land use intensity, Illinois and Iowa for the United States, rank 49th and 50th out of 50 states in total uncultivated land remaining.

Biofuels

Research, by David Tilman, ecologist at the University of Minnesota, suggests that "biofuels made from high-diversity mixtures of prairie plants can reduce global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even when grown on infertile soils, they can provide a substantial portion of global energy needs, and leave fertile land for food production."[7] Unlike corn and soybeans which are major food crops, prairie grasses are not used for human consumption. Prairie grasses can be grown in infertile soil, eliminating the cost of adding nutrients to the soil. Tilman and his colleagues estimate that prairie grass biofuels would yield 51 percent more energy per acre than ethanol from corn grown on fertile land.[7] Some grasses commonly used are lupine, big bluestem (turkey foot), blazing star, switchgrass, and prairie clover.

Preservation

Only 1% of tallgrass prairie remains in the U.S. today.[8]

Significant preserved areas of prairie include:

Virgin prairies

Virgin prairie refers to prairie land that has never been plowed. Small virgin prairies exist in the American Midwestern states and in Canada. Restored prairie refers to a prairie that has been reseeded after plowing or other disturbance.

Prairie garden

A prairie garden is a garden primarily consisting of plants from a prairie.

See also

References

  1. ^ Dinsmore, James and Muller, Mark. (Illustrator) A Country So Full of Game: The Story of Wildlife in Iowa Burr Oak Series. April 1994.
  2. ^ William J. McShea (Editor), William M. Healy (Editor) Oak Forest Ecosystems: Ecology and Management for Wildlife The Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (October 21, 2003)
  3. ^ Abrams, Marc D. Native Americans as active and passive promoters of mast and fruit trees in the eastern USA The Holocene, Vol. 18, No. 7, 1123-1137 (2008)
  4. ^ Thompson, Janette R. Prairies, Forests, and Wetlands: The Restoration of Natural Landscape Communities in Iowa Burr Oak Series. University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1992)
  5. ^ Prairie Frontier: General Information about Prairie Types
  6. ^ Carl Kurtz. Iowa's Wild Places: An Exploration With Carl Kurtz (Iowa Heritage Collection) Iowa State Press; 1st edition (July 30, 1996)
  7. ^ a b David Tilman. "Mixed Prairie Grasses Better Source of Biofuel Than Corn Ethanol and Soybean Biodiesel"". National Science Foundation (NSF). http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=108206. Retrieved December 7, 2006. 
  8. ^ Roy Robison, Donald B. White, and Mary H. Meyer: Plants in Prairie Communities. University of Minnesota, 1995.

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Cornhuskers by Carl Sandburg
Prairie
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I WAS born on the prairie and the milk of its wheat, the red of its clover, the eyes of its women, gave me a song and a slogan.

Here the water went down, the icebergs slid with gravel, the gaps and the valleys hissed, and the black loam came, and the yellow sandy loam.
Here between the sheds of the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians, here now a morning star fixes a fire sign over the timber claims and cow pastures, the corn belt, the cotton belt, the cattle ranches.
Here the gray geese go five hundred miles and back with a wind under their wings honking the cry for a new home.
Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river moon of water.

The prairie sings to me in the forenoon and I know in the night I rest easy in the prairie arms, on the prairie heart.
.    .    .

        After the sunburn of the day
        handling a pitchfork at a hayrack,
        after the eggs and biscuit and coffee,
        the pearl-gray haystacks
        in the gloaming
        are cool prayers
        to the harvest hands.

In the city among the walls the overland passenger train is choked and the pistons hiss and the wheels curse.

On the prairie the overland flits on phantom wheels and the sky and the soil between them muffle the pistons and cheer the wheels.
.    .    .

I am here when the cities are gone.
I am here before the cities come.
I nourished the lonely men on horses.
I will keep the laughing men who ride iron.
I am dust of men.

The running water babbled to the deer, the cottontail, the gopher.
You came in wagons, making streets and schools,
Kin of the ax and rifle, kin of the plow and horse,
Singing Yankee Doodle, Old Dan Tucker, Turkey in the Straw,
You in the coonskin cap at a log house door hearing a lone wolf howl,
You at a sod house door reading the blizzards and chinooks let loose from Medicine Hat,
I am dust of your dust, as I am brother and mother
To the copper faces, the worker in flint and clay,
The singing women and their sons a thousand years ago
Marching single file the timber and the plain.

I hold the dust of these amid changing stars.
I last while old wars are fought, while peace broods mother-like,
While new wars arise and the fresh killings of young men.
I fed the boys who went to France in great dark days.
Appomattox is a beautiful word to me and so is Valley Forge and the Marne and Verdun,
I who have seen the red births and the red deaths
Of sons and daughters, I take peace or war, I say nothing and wait.

Have you seen a red sunset drip over one of my cornfields, the shore of night stars, the wave lines of dawn up a wheat valley?

Have you heard my threshing crews yelling in the chaff of a strawpile and the running wheat of the wagonboards, my cornhuskers, my harvest hands hauling crops, singing dreams of women, worlds, horizons?
.    .    .

        Rivers cut a path on flat lands.
        The mountains stand up.
        The salt oceans press in
        And push on the coast lines.
        The sun, the wind, bring rain
        And I know what the rainbow writes across the east or west in a half-circle:

        A love-letter pledge to come again.
.    .    .

      Towns on the Soo Line,
      Towns on the Big Muddy,
      Laugh at each other for cubs
      And tease as children.

Omaha and Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul, sisters in a house together, throwing slang, growing up.

Towns in the Ozarks, Dakota wheat towns, Wichita, Peoria, Buffalo, sisters throwing slang, growing up.
.    .    .

Out of prairie-brown grass crossed with a streamer of wigwam smoke—out of a smoke pillar, a blue promise—out of wild ducks woven in greens and purples—
Here I saw a city rise and say to the peoples round world: Listen, I am strong, I know what I want.
Out of log houses and stumps—canoes stripped from tree-sides—flatboats coaxed with an ax from the timber claims—in the years when the red and the white men met—the houses and streets rose.

A thousand red men cried and went away to new places for corn and women: a million white men came and put up skyscrapers, threw out rails and wires, feelers to the salt sea: now the smokestacks bite the skyline with stub teeth.

In an early year the call of a wild duck woven in greens and purples: now the riveter’s chatter, the police patrol, the song-whistle of the steamboat.

To a man across a thousand years I offer a handshake.

I say to him: Brother, make the story short, for the stretch of a thousand years is short.
.    .    .

What brothers these in the dark?
What eaves of skyscrapers against a smoke moon?
These chimneys shaking on the lumber shanties
When the coal boats plow by on the river—
The hunched shoulders of the grain elevators—
The flame sprockets of the sheet steel mills
And the men in the rolling mills with their shirts off
Playing their flesh arms against the twisting wrists of steel:
        what brothers these
        in the dark

        of a thousand years?
.    .    .

A headlight searches a snowstorm.
A funnel of white light shoots from over the pilot of the Pioneer Limited crossing Wisconsin.

In the morning hours, in the dawn,
The sun puts out the stars of the sky
And the headlight of the Limited train.

The fireman waves his hand to a country school teacher on a bobsled.
A boy, yellow hair, red scarf and mittens, on the bobsled, in his lunch box a pork chop sandwich and a V of gooseberry pie.

The horses fathom a snow to their knees.
Snow hats are on the rolling prairie hills.

The Mississippi bluffs wear snow hats.
.    .    .

Keep your hogs on changing corn and mashes of grain,
    O farmerman.
    Cram their insides till they waddle on short legs
    Under the drums of bellies, hams of fat.
    Kill your hogs with a knife slit under the ear.
    Hack them with cleavers.

    Hang them with hooks in the hind legs.
.    .    .

A wagonload of radishes on a summer morning.
Sprinkles of dew on the crimson-purple balls.
The farmer on the seat dangles the reins on the rumps of dapple-gray horses.

The farmer’s daughter with a basket of eggs dreams of a new hat to wear to the county fair.
.    .    .

On the left-and right-hand side of the road,
        Marching corn—

I saw it knee high weeks ago—now it is head high—tassels of red silk creep at the ends of the ears.
.    .    .

I am the prairie, mother of men, waiting.
They are mine, the threshing crews eating beefsteak, the farmboys driving steers to the railroad cattle pens.
They are mine, the crowds of people at a Fourth of July basket picnic, listening to a lawyer read the Declaration of Independence, watching the pinwheels and Roman candles at night, the young men and women two by two hunting the bypaths and kissing bridges.
They are mine, the horses looking over a fence in the frost of late October saying good-morning to the horses hauling wagons of rutabaga to market.

They are mine, the old zigzag rail fences, the new barb wire.
.    .    .

The cornhuskers wear leather on their hands.
There is no let-up to the wind.
Blue bandannas are knotted at the ruddy chins.

Falltime and winter apples take on the smolder of the five-o’clock November sunset: falltime, leaves, bonfires, stubble, the old things go, and the earth is grizzled.
The land and the people hold memories, even among the anthills and the angleworms, among the toads and woodroaches—among gravestone writings rubbed out by the rain—they keep old things that never grow old.

The frost loosens corn husks.
The Sun, the rain, the wind
        loosen corn husks.
The men and women are helpers.
They are all cornhuskers together.
I see them late in the western evening

        in a smoke-red dust.
.    .    .

The phantom of a yellow rooster flaunting a scarlet comb, on top of a dung pile crying hallelujah to the streaks of daylight,
The phantom of an old hunting dog nosing in the underbrush for muskrats, barking at a coon in a treetop at midnight, chewing a bone, chasing his tail round a corncrib,
The phantom of an old workhorse taking the steel point of a plow across a forty-acre field in spring, hitched to a harrow in summer, hitched to a wagon among cornshocks in fall,
These phantoms come into the talk and wonder of people on the front porch of a farmhouse late summer nights.

“The shapes that are gone are here,” said an old man with a cob pipe in his teeth one night in Kansas with a hot wind on the alfalfa.
.    .    .

Look at six eggs
In a mockingbird’s nest.

Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O-be-joyful
Over the marshes and uplands.

Look at songs

Hidden in eggs.
.    .    .

When the morning sun is on the trumpet-vine blossoms, sing at the kitchen pans: Shout All Over God’s Heaven.
When the rain slants on the potato hills and the sun plays a silver shaft on the last shower, sing to the bush at the backyard fence: Mighty Lak a Rose.

When the icy sleet pounds on the storm windows and the house lifts to a great breath, sing for the outside hills: The Ole Sheep Done Know the Road, the Young Lambs Must Find the Way.
.    .    .

Spring slips back with a girl face calling always: “Any new songs for me? Any new songs?”

O prairie girl, be lonely, singing, dreaming, waiting—your lover comes—your child comes—the years creep with toes of April rain on new-turned sod.
O prairie girl, whoever leaves you only crimson poppies to talk with, whoever puts a good-by kiss on your lips and never comes back—

There is a song deep as the falltime redhaws, long as the layer of black loam we go to, the shine of the morning star over the corn belt, the wave line of dawn up a wheat valley.
.    .    .

O prairie mother, I am one of your boys.
I have loved the prairie as a man with a heart shot full of pain over love.

Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river moon of water.
.    .    .

I speak of new cities and new people.
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down,
  a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
  only an ocean of to-morrows,
  a sky of to-morrows.

I am a brother of the cornhuskers who say
  at sundown:
        To-morrow is a day.


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

A prairie is a flat area of land with not much rain. Most of the plants that grow on a prairie are grasses.There are often many animals on a prairie (such as rabbits and snakes).









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