1133 State Avenue, Dickinson, ND 58601 Voice: (701) 483-2348 FAX: (701) 483-2005


Habitat Associations and Habitat Types on the
Sheyenne National Grasslands of North Dakota

Llewellyn L. Manske PhD
Associate Range Scientist
North Dakota State University
Dickinson Research Extension Center

 

The north unit of the Sheyenne National Grasslands is between 46o21' and 46o40' north latitude and 97o10' and 97o30' west longitude in Ransom and Richland counties of southeastern North Dakota. The boundaries include 67,320 acres of public land and 63,240 acres of privately owned land. The public land is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and managed in cooperation with the Sheyenne Valley Grazing Association. The public land is managed under the multiple-use concept. The primary uses are grazing by beef cattle, wildlife, and dispersed recreation. The private land is managed for grazing by beef cattle, hay production, and suitable areas are farmed for livestock feed or cash sale of harvested commodities (Manske and Barker 1988).

The region has a continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. Data from the McLeod Weather Substation (U.S. Dept. Com. 1973) show that the long term mean annual temperature is 41.9oF. January is the coldest month with a mean temperature of 7.7oF. July and August are the warmest months with mean temperatures of 70.9oF and 69.9oF, respectively. The long term mean annual precipitation is 19.6 inches with 79% occurring during the growing season, April through September. The frost free period averages 130 days beginning in mid May. Soil thaw is usually completed in the spring by 1 May (Jensen 1972).

The Sheyenne National Grasslands is located on a geologic formation known as the Glacial Sheyenne Delta. The delta was formed near the end of the Wisconsin Glaciation where glacial meltwater of the glacial Sheyenne River emptied into Glacial Lake Agassiz and deposited sands, clays, and gravels. A layer of nearly impervious lake sediments is below the delta formation. This layer is responsible for the relatively high water table of the area.

The vegetation on the Sheyenne National Grasslands consists of native forest, woodland, and grassland communities and non-native (cropland) replacement communities with associated cultivated and introduced plant species. The native plant communities have quantitatively been described by Nelson 1964, Hanson 1976, and Manske 1980. Homogeneous physiographic regions have been separated into four habitat associations (Table 1).

Table 1. The Estimated Surface Area of the Habitat Associations on the Sheyenne National Grasslands. (Estimations made by use of an Electronic Planimeter.)

Percentage of the Sheyenne National Habitat Association Acre Grasslands

Hummocky Sandhills 65,494 50.16
Deltaic Plain 38,761 29.69
Choppy Sandhills 19,170 14.68
River Terrace 7,135 5.46

The vegetation on the Sheyenne National Grasslands was divided into eleven habitat types (Table 2) on the basis of similar plant species composition, soil type, and topography. Eight habitat types consisted of native vegetation and three of replacement (cropland) vegetation. The habitat types of closely related characteristics and distribution were grouped into four habitat associations (Fig. 1) (Manske and Barker 1981).

 

Table 2. The Estimated Surface Area of the Habitat Types on the Sheyenne National Grasslands. (Estimations made by use of a Dot Grid.)

 Habitat Association
Habitat Type
Acre Percentage of the Sheyenne National Grasslands
Hummocky Sandhills

Upland Grasslands  Midland Grasslands  Lowland Grasslands  Cropland 

34,389
16,558
12,737
1,810
26.34
12.68
9.76
1.39
Deltaic Plain

Midland Grasslands
Lowland Grasslands
Cropland

14,476
5,387
18,898
11.09
4.13
14.47
Choppy Sandhills

Upland Woodlands Open Grasslands 

12,269
6,901
9.40
5.29
River Terrace

Riparian Forest
Cropland

5,710
1,425
4.37
1.09


(click on map for larger image)

 

Habitat Associations and Habitat Types

The Hummocky Sandhills Habitat Association consists of 65,494 acres, 50.16% of the Sheyenne National Grasslands. The topography is gently rolling and undulating hummocks (small hills) with relief usually 5 to 10 feet and slope 5 to 10%. The soils are primarily loamy fine sand with low available soil water. This habitat association is divided into four habitat types. The Upland Grassland Habitat Type exists on the summit and shoulder slopes of each hummock. The combined area is 34,389 acres (26.34%). The soils are loamy fine sand which are low in available soil water. The vegetation is the Bouteloua gracilis - Stipa comata - Carex heliophila mixed grass prairie community. The Midland Grassland Habitat Type exists on the back and foot slopes of each hummock with a combined area of 16,558 acres (12.68%). The soils are loamy fine sand with low to moderate available soil water. The vegetation is the Andropogon gerardi - Andropogon scoparius - Panicum virgatum tall grass prairie community. The Lowland Grassland Habitat Type exists on the foot and toe slopes and has an area of 12,737 acres (9.76%). The soils are fine sandy loam with moderate to low available soil moisture but with high soil moisture because of a high water table. The vegetation is the Carex lanuginosa - Calamagrostis inexpansa - Juncus balticus sedge meadow community. The Cropland Habitat Type exists on areas with generally low relief with characteristics of the midland habitat type. The figure 1 combined area is small with 1,810 acres (1.39%). The soils are primarily loamy fine sand with low to moderate available soil water. The vegetation is primarily Zea mays and Medicago sativa. Associated with the cultivated land is 37 acres (0.03%) of planted tree shelterbelts.

The Deltaic Plain Habitat Association consists of 38,761 acres, 29.69% of the Sheyenne National Grasslands. The topography is nearly level with relief usually 1 to 2 feet and small areas of relief of 1 to 5 feet and slopes mostly less than 2%. The soils are primarily loam with high to moderate available soil moisture. The entire association has a high water table. This habitat association is divided into three habitat types. The Midland Grassland Habitat Type exists on areas that are slightly elevated with a total area of 14,476 acres (11.09%). The soils are loam to fine sandy loam and are high to moderate in available soil moisture. The vegetation is the Andropogon gerardi - Andropogon scoparius - Sorghastrum nutans tall grass prairie community. A very small area of less than 15 acres (0.01%) of Bouteloua gracilis - Stipa comata mixed grass prairie community exists within this midland habitat type on areas of slightly higher relief. The Lowland Habitat Type is located in the slight depressions in the landscape. The combined area is 5,387 acres (4.13%). The soils are loam with moderate to low available soil moisture. The vegetation is the Carex lanuginosa - Calamagrostis inexpansa - Carex spp. sedge meadow community. The Cropland Habitat Type is a large portion of this association because of the nearly level topography and good fertile soil. The combined area is 18,898 acres (14.47%). The soils are loam to fine sandy loam with high to low available soil moisture. The vegetation is primarily Zea mays, Medicago sativa and Helianthus annuus. Associated with the cultivated land is 402 acres (3.08%) of planted tree shelterbelts.

The Choppy Sandhills Habitat Association consists of 19,170 acres, 14.68% of the Sheyenne National Grasslands. The topography is very rough and choppy with relief usually 5 to 50 feet and slopes 10 to 20%. The soils are fine sand with very low available soil moisture. This habitat association is divided into two habitat types. The Upland Woodland Habitat Type exists on the slopes and depressions of the choppy topography and has a combined area of 12,269 acres (9.40%). The soil is fine sand with low available soil moisture. The vegetation is the Quercus macrocarpa - Populus tremuloides - Fraximus pennsylvanica woodland community with a thin understory of grass, forbs and shrubs. The tree population varies from dense groves to scattered individual trees. The Open Grassland Habitat Type exists between the areas of dense groves and has a combined area of 6,901 acres (5.29%). The topography is rough and highly variable. The soil is fine sand with very low available soil moisture. The vegetation is the Bouteloua gracilis - Carex heliophila - Sporobolus cryptandrus mixed grass prairie community.

The River Terrace Habitat Association exists along the Sheyenne River and its spring fed tributaries. It consists of 7,135 acres, 5.46% of the Sheyenne National Grasslands. The topography is very level on the various alluvial terraces with a slope of 0.3%. The river channel has steep banks. The edge of the river valley has a very steep escarpment of 25 to 30 feet with a slope greater than 20%. The soils are silt loam with high available soil moisture. This association is divided into two habitat types. The Riparian Forest Habitat Type exists throughout the river terrace and river valley escarpment except for oxbow areas and areas cleared for farming. The area is 5,710 acres (4.37%). The soils are silt loam to silty clay with high available soil moisture. The vegetation is the Tilia americana - Ulmus americana - Fraximus pennsylvania forest community. Very small areas of sedge-cattail-willow wetland communities exist in the oxbows and along the river channel. The Cropland Habitat Type exists in areas that have been cleared of forest vegetation. The combined area is 1,425 acres (1.09%). The soils are silt loam with high available soil moisture. The vegetation is primarily Zea mays, Helianthus annuus and Medicago sativa.

Literature Cited

Hanson, J.D. 1976. A phytosociological study of the oak savanna in southeastern North Dakota. M.S. Thesis, NDSU, Fargo, N.D. 135 pp.

Jensen, R.E. 1972. Climate of North Dakota. National Weather Service, NDSU, Fargo, N.D. 48 pp.

Manske, L.L. 1980. Habitat, phenology and growth of selected sandhills range plants. Ph.D. Thesis, NDSU, Fargo, N.D. 154 pp.

Manske, L.L. and W.T. Barker. 1981. The prairie grouse on the Sheyenne National Grasslands, North Dakota. NDSU Research Report, Fargo, N.D. 238 pp.

Manske, L.L. and W.T. Barker. 1988. Habitat usage by prairie grouse on the Sheyenne National Grasslands. USDA Forest Service. General Technical Report RM-159. p. 8-20.

Nelson, P.W. 1964. The forest of the lower Sheyenne River Valley, North Dakota. M.S. Thesis, NDSU, Fargo, N.D. 148 pp.

U.S. Dept. of Commerce. 1973. Climatography of the United States. No. 81, North Dakota. N.O.A.A. Env. Data Serv., Asheville, N.C.