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Science_Lab_Yellow / Lesson 2: Prairie Ecosystem

Prairie Ecosystem
What will we be learning today?

  • In this lesson, we are going to learn all about the Prairie ecosystem.

What Is a Prairie Ecosystem Like?

  • Long ago a "sea of wild grasses" covered North America from central Texas in the south to North Dakota in the north. These were America's prairie lands, the range of the famous song "Home on the Range."

  • The Blackland Prairie is the largest remaining prairie in America. It stretches 483 km (300 mi) across Texas, from Austin to Clarksville. The Blacklands got their name from the rich black soil the early settlers found there. The settlers found that the summers were hot and long, and that there was enough rain to grow profitable crops, like cotton.

  • Before the land became farms and ranches, huge herds of buffalo grazed on the prairie grasses. Native Americans once hunted the buffalo on this land for food and clothing as a means of survival.

  • Buffalo were not the prairie's only inhabitants. Plants and animals of all kinds lived there. At least 50 different kinds of tall and short grasses provided food for plant-eating animals. Many kinds of wildflowers painted the landscape with beautiful colors. These flowers included purple coneflowers, bluebells, yellow sunflowers, and golden daleas. Travelers might have come across oak, hickory, elm, or cedar trees along nearby streams.

    • The cattle and crops that provide much of our food live on the prairie today. Ranchers and farmers now graze cattle and plant crops such as corn and wheat on the Blacklands.

    Prairie dogs

    What Animals Live on the Blackland Prairie?

    • About 500 species, or different kinds, of animals still live on this prairie. The spotted chorus frog sings in the night near the streams and rivers. Rattlesnakes and lizards seek shelter under rocks.

      The Blackland Prairie covers almost 13 million acres. Many kinds of animals and plants live on a prairie. A prairie is a region of grasses. It may be flat or hilly grassland.

    • Birds like pipits, longspurs, and horned larks, as well as 300 other kinds of birds, still live on the Blackland Prairie.

    • Raccoons, opossums, coyotes, white-tailed deer, and striped skunks live on the Blacklands. Cotton rats, white-footed mice, eastern cottontails, red bats, and bobcats live there, too.

  • Mountain lions, gray wolves, black bears, and jaguars used to come in search of prey. When people came and built towns, cities, and farms, the buffalo left. The animals that fed on the buffalo left, too. Some animals, however, came to the Blacklands from other places, and stayed. Armadillos arrived from Mexico as the Blacklands - climate warmed up over the past 150 years. Badgers invaded from northwestern Texas when their natural homes were cleared for development.


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