Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1991


Published in Great Plains Research 1:2 (August 1991), pp. 283–301. Copyright © 1991 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


The High Plains of North America extends from Canada to northern Mexico. This grassland region is subject to prolonged drought, herbivory, and wildfire. Organisms that are indigenous to the High Plains are adapted to these environmental factors. Periodic droughts occur at inexact, but few year, intervals. The grazing by free ranging bison, the indigenous large herbivore, has been replaced by grazing of fenced domestic stock. Fire regimes throughout human occupation of the region have been greatly influenced by human activities. Cultivation of wheat and corn also is carried out in the region.

Predicted climate changes in this region are increased temperature and reduced effective precipitation. Paleontological records document past climate changes from which certain predictions may be made about the effects of current models of Global Change. Ecological studies at the ecosystem, community, species, and population levels are defensible. Land use modifications should be undertaken immediately to minimize deleterious effects of Global Warming.