The North American prairie ecosystem is diverse and complex. It used to be much bigger than it is now extending from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River and from Mexico to Canada. The prairie ecosystem has been damaged and reduced in the last one hundred and fifty years so that now it is only a fraction of the size it used to be. The prairie ecosystem is now listed as one of the most endangered ecosystems anywhere.
The prairie ecosystems are divided into groups according to how tall the grass is. There are three different types of prairie habitats, the tall grass prairie, the mixed grass prairie and the short grass prairie. Here we will take a closer look at two different habitats in a prairie ecosystem.
The Tall Grass Prairie Ecosystem
One of the two different habitats in a prairie ecosystem that we will explore more in depth is the tall grass prairie. This part of the great grass lands is found on the eastern side of the Great Plains. The tall grass ecosystem receives an annual rainfall of 30-40 inches per year, which is the most out of any of the prairie ecosystems.
There are several varieties of grasses that grow in the tall grass ecosystem including switch grass, Indian grass, and big bluestem which grows very fast. The tall grass area of the Great Plains ecosystem is the most lush and is filled with beautiful wildflowers. The grasses in the tall grass ecosystem are much denser and thicker because the area receives so much rainfall.
The tall grass ecosystem is a wonderful place to raise livestock as the grasses are rich and nutritious. Cattle that graze in the tall grass area of the Great Plains ecosystem can gain two to three pounds a day and fatten up nicely. Today most of the area that is in the tall grass prairie ecosystem is planted in corn and over 99 percent of the tall grass ecosystem has been destroyed.
The Short Grass Prairie Ecosystem
The short grass area of the Great Plains ecosystem is located in the far western region at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Of the two different habitats in a prairie ecosystem, the short grass area does not get as much rainfall as the tall grass area and averages only 15 inches a year. Due to the minimal amount of rainfall that is received there are many short, drought tolerant species of plants that grow in the short grass area. Some of the grasses that can be found in the short grass prairie ecosystem include blue gamma and buffalo grass. There are also sagebrush and other shrubs as well as cactus. Nowadays the short grass prairie ecosystem is used as a place for grazing cattle to roam.