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Prairie

Prairie

The term prairie is an ecological term used to describe a geologic plain covered by mostly grass. Prairies have been subdivided into smaller, more specific categories by the type of vegetation they support. Short grass and long grass prairies historically covered most of the central portion of the United States. However, the grasses have been replaced by urbanization and agriculture, but the plain still exists.

The Great Plains of the United States support one of the most famous prairies in the world. As with all prairies, the area is supported underneath by a firm bedrock . In this case, the bedrock is composed of limestone deposited by a relatively continuous series of ancient seas that advanced and retreated across America and Canada for millions of years. Dolomite , containing high levels of magnesium, is the primary building block of the bedforms .

Overlying the bedrock are massive and extensive fossil coral reefs . These ancient reefs are quite impressive. They began to form in the warm shallow seas after the Silurian about 400 million years ago. Growth was intermittent as the seas transgressed (grew) and regressed (receded) in a cyclic pattern.

During the last 1.9 million years, the entire upper North American continent was covered with ice . The ice sheets grew and shrank according to global climate fluctuations. The grinding of the massive ice sheets produced a fine sediment called glacial till . The meltwaters of the glaciers moved the till away from the sheets and out onto the dolomitic plain in a process known as glacial drift. The drift formed many distinctive structures including eskers, moraines , and kettles. The sequences of advancing ice are recorded in the layers of the sediments. What was once considered a distinct pattern of a few ice advances is now understood to be a complicated chronology of at least 29 different episodes. The last identifiable age of ice deposition is called the Wisconsin glaciation . This event stripped much of the prairie of high physiographic features while depositing the characteristic soils of the current prairie.

The soils that are high in carbonates are not very rich for growing vegetation. Trees are exposed to extremes of temperatures and varying precipitation . They do not fare as well as the hardier grasses. Consequently, the evolution of grasses has been intimately tied with the development of the prairie. The prairies have been threatened by the introduction of foreign grass types. Some areas of the prairie have been set aside as national grasslands and non-native grasses are sought out and removed. The majesty of the prairie still exists in these historic places.

See also Glacial landforms; Ice ages; Marine transgression and marine regression; Soil and soil horizons

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"Prairie." World of Earth Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Prairie." World of Earth Science. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prairie

Prairie

PRAIRIE

PRAIRIE is a major North American biome, or ecological region. It extends from central Canada to the Mexican border and from the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains to Indiana. Its topography ranges from rolling hills to the flatlands of former glacial lake bottoms. Its climate is characterized by relatively low annual precipitation (twenty to forty inches per year) and a high rate of evapotranspiration. This topography and climate contributed to the dominance of grasses, the subdomination of broadleaf plants, and sparse forest cover.

The region was originally sparsely populated by Native Americans who settled in greater numbers after the arrival of the horse. European Americans began settling the region in earnest only after the arrival of the railroads in the 1870s. The primary economic activity has been and continues to be agriculture, with livestock production and grain production dominating. This activity has resulted in the loss of over 99 percent of the original prairie. Today the region is home to more than 33.5 million people. Concerns about the ecological region include the continuing loss of virgin prairie, topsoil erosion, and ground-water contamination and depletion.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Risser, Paul G. "Grasslands." In Physiological Ecology of North American Plant Communities. Edited by Brian Chabot and Harold A. Mooney. New York: Chapman and Hall, 1985.

PollyFry

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"Prairie." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Prairie." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prairie

prairies

prairies, generally level, originally grass-covered and treeless plains of North America, stretching from W Ohio through Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa to the Great Plains region. The prairie belt also extends into N Missouri, S Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, E North and South Dakota, and S Canada. Many of the prairies of the world were formerly used for grazing purposes, but more and more are now coming under cultivation; hence they are often referred to today as the "vanishing grasslands." The soil of the prairies is basically a black chernozem, which is extremely fertile. The prairies correspond to the Pampa of Argentina, the llanos in northern South America, the steppe of Eurasia, and the highveld (see veld) of South Africa. Because they have the favorable climate and soil fertility characteristic of prairies, the wheat belts in the United States, Ukraine, and the Pampa of Argentina are among the world's most productive agricultural regions.

See R. Manning, Grassland (1995); S. R. Jones and R. C. Cushman, The North American Prairie (2004).

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"prairies." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"prairies." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prairies

"prairies." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prairies

Prairie

PRAIRIE


The prairie consists of the flat or moderately hilly lands of the nation's middle section, also called the Great Plains. Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota are mostly prairie. Midwestern states of Illinois and Iowa also contain some prairie lands. Primarily covered with tall grasses (which the pioneers described as a sea of grass), the prairie receives low to moderate rainfall each year. Summers in prairie regions are generally very hot and winters harshly cold. These climatic conditions combined to delay settlement of the region. Though ranchers found grasses suitable for grazing livestock, inadequate rainfall did and does make farming difficult. Further, because the region lacked trees, building on the prairie was limited.

Passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 granted settlers up to 160 acres (64 hectares) of frontier land in exchange for building on or cultivating prairie land. Thus many farmers moved their families onto the Great Plains. In the 1870s Russian Mennonites, who introduced a variety of winter wheat, settled Kansas.

A common crop used by early settlers was turkey red wheat, which could be planted in the fall and harvested in the early summer. The crop, which can withstand cold temperatures, received the benefit of the moisture caused by spring snowmelt and was harvested before the scorching summer. Cultivation of the grain spread, and in 1894 wheat became Kansas' principal crop, earning the state the nickname "Bread-basket of America."

In other parts of the Great Plains farmers adopted dry farming techniques. (A technique by which some fields are allowed to lie fallow every other season so that soil can store up enough moisture and nutrients to support the next year's crops.) Wheat was found to be well suited to dry farming, but it was not used exclusively. Some farmers also grew corn. The end of the nineteenth century saw the invention of the steel plow and the improvement of the McCormick reaper; subsequently, these machines were a great boon to farm production.

The introduction of winter wheat, the development of dry farming methods, and innovations in agricultural machinery combined to make possible the settlement of the American prairie. As a result, between 1863 and 1900 about half a million families became homesteaders in the West. Most of them settled on the Plains, which became one of the world's leading wheat-producing regions by the early 1900s.

See also: Dry Farming, Homestead Act, Homesteaders, Westward Expansion

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"Prairie." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Prairie." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prairie

prairie

prairie a large open area of grassland, especially in North America; the word comes (in the late 18th century) via French from Latin pratum ‘meadow’.
Prairie Province in Canada, the province of Manitoba, and the Prairie Provinces are the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
prairie schooner a covered wagon used by the 19th-century pioneers in crossing the North American prairies.
Prairie State in the US, an informal name for the state of Illinois; the Prairie States are the States of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and others to the south.

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"prairie." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"prairie." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prairie

prairie

prairie Region of treeless plain. The prairies of North America extend from Ohio through Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa to the Great Plains, and n into Canada. The pampas of s South America, the llanos of n South America and the steppes of central Europe and Asia correspond to the North American prairies.

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"prairie." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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prairie

prairie A temperate grassland of northern America, dominated by more or less xeromorphic grasses, which fall into three groups based on stature (tall, mid, and short) with a progressive decrease in rainfall. Various herbaceous broad-leaved annuals and perennials are mixed in with the grasses.

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"prairie." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"prairie." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prairie

prairie

prairie A temperate grassland of northern America, dominated by more or less xeromorphic grasses, which fall into three groups based on stature (tall, mid, and short) with a progressive decrease in rainfall. Various herbaceous broad-leaved annuals and perennials are mixed in with the grasses.

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"prairie." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"prairie." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prairie-0

prairie

prai·rie / ˈpre(ə)rē/ • n. 1. a large open area of grassland, esp. in the Mississippi River valley. 2. (Prairie) [often as adj.] a steam locomotive of 2-6-2 wheel arrangement.

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"prairie." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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prairie

prairie XVIII. — F. prairie, OF. pra(i)erie :- Rom *prātāria, f. L. prātum meadow; see -RY.

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"prairie." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"prairie." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prairie-2

prairie

prairieairy, Azeri, canary, carabinieri, Carey, Cary, chary, clary, contrary, dairy, Dari, faerie, fairy, glairy, glary, Guarneri, hairy, lairy, Mary, miserere, nary, Nyerere, prairie, Salieri, scary, Tipperary, vary, wary •carefree • masonry • blazonry •Aintree • pastry • masturbatory •freemasonry • stonemasonry • Petrie

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"prairie." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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