"Xeric Tallgrass Prairie"
This was new to me that I learned just this afternoon and found interesting.
We were doing some site surveys and fire mitigation recon out at Rocky Flats NWR today and my boss was telling us about "xeric prairies." Now, I have heard about tall, mixed, and shortgrass prairie, and through all my research on the subject, have never once heard this term. I have been lead to believe that all grassland in Colorado fit squarely and neatly in the "shortgrass" column. Not so. Along the eastern Piedmont of the Rocky's remains vestiges of the last ice age! A narrow band of xeric tallgrass prairie. While most of the land in the Centennial State east of the foothills is (or at least once upon a time it was) dominated by "boot high" grasses like blue grama and buffalograss, in my neck of the woods, the landscape is (supposed to be) more reminiscent of that historically found in Illinois, dominated by big bluestem, Indian, and switchgrass.
While all prairies are considered one of, if not the most, imperiled ecosystems on earth, Colorado's Front Range tallgrass prairie is possibly in worse condition than it's more famous brother to the east. In fact, in 1985 found only a handful of tiny parcels scattered through Boulder and Jefferson counties. Livestock grazing, farming and development have destroyed the rest. What those activities haven't taken, invasive and exotic plants threaten to finish off. Smooth brome, introduced by cattlemen from Europe, is easily the single most common grass species in either of these counties, turning one of the most diverse landscapes into a complete monoculture.
To make matters worse, Jefferson, the county I live in, is considering downsizing it's open space holdings along the Dakota Hogback in order to develop more business and housing tracts so they can capitalize on the explosive growth that is consuming the Denver area. It is unlikely that the commissioners or many of their constituents, will mourn the loss.
Anyways, just thought some of you prairie enthusiasts would find this interesting. And heres a link for some further reading.