Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2011


Great Plains Research 21 (Fall 2011):231-43


(US government work) 2011 Published by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Land-cover and land-use change usually results from a combination of anthropogenic drivers and biophysical conditions found across multiple scales, ranging from parcel to regional levels. A group of four Level III ecoregions located in the u.s. northern Great Plains is used to demonstrate the similarities and differences in land change during nearly a 30-year period (1973-2000) using results from the U.S. Geological Survey's Land Cover Trends project. There were changes to major suites of land-cover; the transitions between agriculture and grassland/shrubland and the transitions among wetland, water, agriculture, and grassland/shrubland were affected by different factors. Anthropogenic drivers affected the land-use tension (or land-use competition) between agriculture and grassland/shrubland land-covers, whereas changes between wetland and water land-covers, and their relationship to agriculture and grassland/shrubland land-covers, were mostly affected by regional weather cycles. More land-use tension between agriculture and grassland/shrubland landcovers occurred in ecoregions with greater amounts of economically marginal cropland. Land-cover change associated with weather variability occurred in ecoregions that had large concentrations of wetlands and water impoundments, such as the Missouri River reservoirs. The Northwestern Glaciated Plains ecoregion had the highest overall estimated percentage of change because it had both land-use tension between agriculture and grassland/shrubland land-covers and wetland-water changes.