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South Central Semi-Arid Prairies

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Map Legend & Subregion List

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NameColor on MapCEC Code‡
High Plains9.4.1
Southwestern Tablelands9.4.3
Central Great Plains9.4.2
Flint Hills9.4.4
Cross Timbers9.4.5
Edwards Plateau9.4.6
Texas Blackland Prairies9.4.7

† Status: ✓ = Complete ○ = Needs Image … = Incomplete ∅ = Stub Only

This code refers to the CEC's Level 3 ecoregion codes for North America, see here.


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About the South Central Semi-Arid Prairies

The South Central Semi-Arid Prairies are a portion of the great plains located entirely within the United States, containing the eastern portions of New Mexico and Colorado, a large portion of central Texas, north through western Oklahoma and Kansas, north into Nebraska and southeast Wyoming.

The climate here is a cold semi-arid continental climate, tending towards the drier end of a humid subtropical climate towards the southeast of the region. In general, the climate becomes more arid towards the west.

The natural cover for this area mostly consisted of shortgrass prairie and scrublands to the west, mixed-grass prairie to the interior, with a small amount of tallgrass prairie towards the easternmost portions.

This region began being settled by Europeans in the 1860's, with the intensity of settlement picking up in the 1870's following the civil war. Initial attempts at agriculture here were poorly suited to the region's climate and ecology, and led to ecological disaster, most notably the Dust Bowl of the 1930's which occurred in this region. The Dust Bowl occurred when a decade of severe drought followed several decades of unusually wet weather. During the wet years, settlers to the area conducted extensive deep plowing to cultivate the land, destroying the deep roots of the native vegetation, and this, combined with other factors including fields being left bare in winter, and burning being conducted prior to planting, together led to massive soil loss during the subsequent drought.

Nowadays, much of this region is used for agriculture, including both cropland and rangeland. The cropland here relies on irrigation. There is also considerable hunting and fossil fuel extraction, as well as some urban development, particularly, in the Denver, CO metro area.

Most of the borders of this region consist of gradual transitions. To the north lie the colder West-Central Semi-Arid Prairies, to the south to the warmer Tamaulipas-Texas Semiarid Plain, and to the northeast, the Temperate Prairies, all part of the Great Plains. To the southeast the transitions are a bit more noticeable and less gradual, as the increasing rainfall leads to forest cover of the Ozark-Oauchita Forests and the Southeastern USA Plains. To the southwest lie the beginning of the Warm Deserts. Much of the western border of this region with the Rocky mountains is even more abrupt, with the beginning of the Western Cordillera region to the northwest, and a small border with the Upper Gila Mountains farther south.