Sand in a Grassland?
It's not hard to figure out how the Sand Hills got their name. Sand dunes and sandy soil make this piece of grassland unique. The Nebraska Sand Hills are located almost entirely within the state of Nebraska.
The irregular dunes and sandy soils of the Sand Hills are so distinct within the Great Plains that they are considered an ecoregion. There are also small lakes and wetlands in the western portion of the northern Sand Hills. These provide important habitat for many species of water birds, such as swans, ducks, and grebes.
This ecoregion contains distinct grass communities that can survive in sandy soil, particularly sand bluestem communities. Bison used to be the main grass-eaters here, but they have been displaced by cattle.
Cause for Concern
As much as 85 percent of the Nebraska Sand Hills Mixed Grassland is intact. Toward the eastern section, habitat loss is higher because of irrigation and development. The absence of farming in the Sand Hills has allowed this ecoregion to escape extensive plowing. Excessive cattle grazing is the primary disturbance here.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001