Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Published in Ecological Monographs, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Jan., 1943), pp. 63-117. Copyright 1943 Ecological Society of America. Used by permission.


Eight years have now passed since the fateful spring of 1934. The almost rainless March and April, the unusually high winds, and the great clouds of dust following two summers of decreasing precipitation, portended disaster. The intensity and duration of the drought and its appalling destruction have been studied from the beginning (Weaver, Stoddart, and Noll 1935) and several reports have recorded changes wrought in the native grass cover (Savage 1937; Weaver and Albertson 1936, 1939, 1940, 1940a). Drought began in great intensity a year earlier in the mixed prairie westward and south-westward. But previous to 1933, intensive studies had been pursued which gave a clear picture of the composition and structure of the several grassland types (Albertson 1937). Uninterrupted quantitative field studies year after year have traced the further deterioration or improvement of the meager vegetation until the wet year of 1941 finally concluded the dry cycle (Albertson and Weaver 1942).

The higher rainfall, sometimes monthly periods with three times the normal amount, has again moistened the dry soil to depths of normal, pre-drought root penetration. This, with a return to more normal atmospheric moisture, temperature, and wind movement, has already initiated marked changes in the vegetation. Hence, a resurvey of the condition of the vegetation of true prairie and mixed prairie, including its short-grass disclimax, both above and below ground at the end of the drought seemed advisable. It will conclude the phase of deterioration due to desiccation and at the same time provide a clear and definite background from which the processes involved in the return of vegetation to a new dynamic stabilization may be traced.