Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Sand Bluestem - Prairie Sandreed - Sand Sagebrush Great Plains Sand Grassland & Shrubland Macrogroup
Colloquial Name: Great Plains Sand Grassland & Shrubland
Hierarchy Level: Macrogroup
Type Concept: This Great Plains macrogroup is found from Texas to southern Alberta and Saskatchewan on somewhat excessively to excessively well-drained, deep sandy to loamy sand soils and contains species well-adapted to these soil conditions. Grass and shrub species composition in sand prairies is determined not only by soil texture and drainage, but by morphological (root architecture) and physiological (photosynthetic, water use efficiency) adaptations. Dominant grasses in this macrogroup exhibit many of these adaptations. Andropogon hallii and Calamovilfa longifolia are the most common species, but other grass and forb species, such as Bouteloua spp., Calamovilfa gigantea, Carex inops ssp. heliophila, Hesperostipa comata, Panicum virgatum, Schizachyrium scoparium, and Sporobolus cryptandrus, can be common. A sparse to moderately dense shrub layer is common. The most common shrub species is Artemisia filifolia. Other possible shrub species include Artemisia cana ssp. cana, Betula occidentalis, Juniperus horizontalis, Prunus angustifolia, Rhus trilobata, and Yucca glauca. Quercus havardii and Prosopis glandulosa may also be present and dominant in some stands in the southern range of this macrogroup. Northward in Alberta, Hesperostipa comata and Calamovilfa longifolia are common, often with Sporobolus cryptandrus and Achnatherum hymenoides. Symphoricarpos occidentalis, Artemisia cana, and Rosa arkansana are common shrubs. The largest expanse of relatively intact examples of this macrogroup (approximately 5 million ha) can be found in the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota. The climate is semi-arid to arid for much of the region where this macrogroup occurs. Soils are somewhat excessively to excessively well-drained, deep sands that are often associated with dune systems and ancient floodplains. These soils can be relatively undeveloped (Entisols) and are highly permeable. This macrogroup is particularly susceptible to wind erosion. Blowouts and sand draws are some of the unique wind-driven disturbances in the sand prairies. Grazing and fire constitute other important dynamics for this macrogroup. Overgrazing and fire suppression can impact the species distribution and dominance.
Diagnostic Characteristics: This macrogroup is found on excessively to excessively well-drained and deep sandy soils and contains sparse to moderately dense graminoids that favor more sandy soils. In the central part of the range, diagnostic species are Andropogon hallii and Calamovilfa gigantea. A sparse to moderately dense shrub layer dominated by Artemisia filifolia is also typical. Northward in Alberta, Hesperostipa comata and Calamovilfa longifolia are common, often with Sporobolus cryptandrus and Achnatherum hymenoides. Symphoricarpos occidentalis, Artemisia cana, and Rosa arkansana are common shrubs.
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features:
Classification Comments: Overgrazing can impact the species distribution and dominance of this macrogroup. This type is found throughout the range of shortgrass and mixedgrass prairies, but is distinct from those macrogroups. Sandy tallgrass sites share greater similarity with silty and loamy tallgrass sites.
Similar NVC Types:
M051 Great Plains Mixedgrass & Fescue Prairie, note: may contain similar elements.
M053 Western Great Plains Shortgrass Prairie, note: may contain similar elements.
M054 Central Lowlands Tallgrass Prairie, note: "contains similar tallgrass prairies, including the sand and gravel prairies to the north and east; examples are dominated by graminoid species such as Andropogon gerardii, Panicum virgatum, Schizachyrium scoparium, Sorghastrum nutans and Sporobolus heterolepis."
M498 Great Plains Ruderal Grassland & Shrubland, note:
Physiognomy and Structure: This macrogroup is characterized by a dense to sparse layer of tall grasses interspersed with forbs and a sparse to moderately dense shrub layer.
Floristics: This macrogroup is dominated by graminoids, in particular Andropogon hallii and Calamovilfa longifolia, with a sparse to moderately dense shrub layer. Other graminoids may be present, including Bouteloua spp., Calamovilfa gigantea, Carex inops ssp. heliophila, Hesperostipa comata, Panicum virgatum, Schizachyrium scoparium, and Sporobolus cryptandrus. Forb species vary across the range of this macrogroup but species of Psoralidium and Pediomelum can be common. Penstemon haydenii (Federally listed endangered) is endemic to this macrogroup and is of special conservation concern because of its probable decline from overgrazing and fire suppression. The shrub layer is dominated by Artemisia filifolia. Other possible shrub species include Artemisia cana ssp. cana, Betula occidentalis, Juniperus horizontalis, Prunus angustifolia, Rhus trilobata, and Yucca glauca. Quercus havardii and Prosopis glandulosa may also be present and dominant in some examples in the southern range of this macrogroup. Northward in Alberta, Hesperostipa comata and Calamovilfa longifolia (= Calamagrostis longifolia) are common, often with Sporobolus cryptandrus and Achnatherum hymenoides. Artemisia cana, Amelanchier alnifolia, Prunus virginiana, and Rosa arkansana are common shrubs.
Dynamics: The temporal and spatial distribution of soil moisture and topography highly influence the distribution, species richness, and productivity of this macrogroup. Spatially, drought and wind affect the macrogroup at different scales. Drought has regional effects on the species abundance and extent of the macrogroup. Wind, however, operates at more local scales and is an important disturbance. Soils on which this macrogroup occurs are particularly susceptible to wind erosion that produces features known as blowouts and sand draws, which can significantly impact vegetation composition and succession. Erosion and blowouts are initiated or maintained by vegetation removal as a result of overgrazing, fire and/or trampling. Fire suppression can also impact the species distribution and dominance within examples of this macrogroup.
Environmental Description: This macrogroup is found primarily in the semi-arid to arid areas of the Great Plains. Environmental conditions, primarily soil moisture and topography, control the distribution, species richness and productivity of plant species within this macrogroup. Sites occur on somewhat excessively to excessively well-drained, deep and relatively undeveloped sandy to loamy sand soils. It is often found on rolling topography and can occur on ridges, midslopes, and/or lowland areas. It is often associated with dune systems, especially in the Sandhills region of Nebraska and South Dakota, and/or ancient floodplains.
Geographic Range: This macrogroup is found throughout the central and western Great Plains region ranging from North Dakota, and possibly southern Canada, south to Texas and west into eastern Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Nations: CA, US
States/Provinces: AB, CO, KS, MB?, MT, ND, NE, NM, OK, SD, SK, TX, WY
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)|
Southwest Plateau and Plains Dry Steppe and Shrub Province
Confident or certain
Western Great Plains Section
Confident or certain
Confidence Level: High
Confidence Level Comments:
Synonomy: >< Blue Grama - Sideoats Grama - Black Grama (707) (Shiflet 1994)
> Bluestem - Prairie Sandreed (602) (Shiflet 1994)
< Bluestem -Dropseed (708) (Shiflet 1994)
> Grama -Bluestem (714) (Shiflet 1994) [Soil texture ranges from sand to clay loam? Inclusions?]
> Mesquite (southern type): 68 (Eyre 1980)
> Mesquite (western type): 242 (Eyre 1980)
> Mohrs (Shin) Oak: 67 (Eyre 1980)
> Prairie Sandreed - Needlegrass (603) (Shiflet 1994) [This SRM type is found in the more northerly and northwest portions of this group (as far west as central Montana).]
> Sand Bluestem - Little Bluestem Dunes (720) (Shiflet 1994)
> Sand Bluestem - Little Bluestem Plains (721) (Shiflet 1994)
= Sand Sagebrush - Mixed Prairie (722) (Shiflet 1994)
> Sand Shinnery Oak (730) (Shiflet 1994)
< Sandsage Prairie (605) (Shiflet 1994)
>< Wheatgrass - Grama - Needlegrass (608) (Shiflet 1994) [Sandy portions of this SRM type are included in this group.]
Concept Author(s): J.E. Weaver and T.J. Fitzpatrick (1934); W.L. Tolstead (1942)
Author of Description: S. Menard, K. Kindscher, B. Hoagland and D. Diamond
Version Date: 15Oct2014
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