Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 1998


Published in Great Plains Research 8 (Fall 1998): 213-30. Copyright © 1998 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


The tallgrass prairie once was continuous throughout the eastern Great Plains. Now, scattered remnants remain. The distribution of some of the most interesting and socially valuable remnants occur along the base of the Rocky Mountains as relicts from a past era. When the species composition of these Colorado grasslands is compared with that of the eastern tallgrass prairie by an index of similarity, the relationship is clear, even though the climates of the two regions differ greatly. It is likely that this western tallgrass prairie is left over from past geologic times rather than the product of long distance seed dispersal. Today, the persistence of tallgrass prairie is threatened. These threats include urbanization, mismanagement, under-valuation by the people who inhabit the regions, and invasion by exotic plant species. These are serious, but correctable, problems. The conservation and restoration of the remaining tallgrass prairie is justified because these relicts contain valuable ecological and genetic resources for the future.