Latitude/Longitude:47.16165, -99.10656 Elevation:559 m Mean Annual Temperature:5C/41F Mean Annual Precipitation:490 mm Dominant NLCD Classes:
Glacial sediments of mud, clay, and silt. Holocene.
USGS HUC: h10160002
Dominant Phenology Species:
Elaeagnus commutata, Poa pratensis, Crataegus chrysocarpa.
Mean Canopy Height:
The mean canopy height is 0.4 m.
Fine, loamy, mixed, superactive, frigid. Typic Haplustolls.
The dominant wind direction is northwest.
The Northern Plains domain is dominated by prairie grasslands, including short, tall and mixed prairie grasses. There are more than 50 species of grass native to the domain, including bluestem, switchgrass, wheatgrass, needlegrass, blue gamma and buffalograss. The mix of grasses in each area is heavily dependent on soil type and precipitation patterns.
DCFS is located in an area known as the "Prairie Pothole Region," a band of tall and mixed prairie that stretches across parts of North and South Dakota, Minnesota and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Historically, this area supported tall to mid-height prairie grasses, including blue gamma and green needlegrass. The land here is pocked by thousands of depressions left behind by glaciers 10,000 years ago, resulting in a series of small lakes and wetland areas known as prairie potholes. These potholes receive most of their water from spring snowmelt and are a primary source of groundwater recharge for the region.
These waters and wetlands create prime breeding grounds for waterfowl and shorebirds. Roughly half of North American migratory waterfowl breed in the Prairie Pothole region, including mallard, gadwell, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, northern pintail, redhead and canvasback ducks. Other species, including snow geese, lesser scaup and wigeon pass through the area on their way to northern breeding grounds. Many shorebirds such as plovers, sandpipers and godwits also breed in the area or stop here during migration.
In addition to birds, these wetland areas also provide habitat for numerous insect, reptile, amphibian and mammal species. Muskrat, mink, raccoon, red fox, coyote and striped skunk can be found in the local area, along with the northern leopard frog, tiger salamander, eastern painted turtle and eastern garter snake. Many species of insect pollinators, including various species of moths and butterflies, breed or pass through the area.
Eastern North Dakota receives slightly more rainfall than the western parts of the state, averaging 22.5 inches (57.2 cm) annually. Historically, precipitation patterns have followed a ten-year cycle of wetter and drier years, with periodic droughts. Typical summertime temperatures are in the low to mid 80s (26-29 °C), with occasional days in the 90s and a record high of 106 °F (41.1 °C). Winters are bitter cold, with lows hovering near 0°F (-18 °C) and a record low of -38 °F (-38.8 °C). Both plant and animal species are adapted to withstand these variations in temperature and precipitation.
Scientifically Interesting Facts or Discoveries
DCFS produces approximately 105 terrestrial data products. Some data products are available at the site going back to 2017, including soil physical and chemical properties, plant phenology observations, insect and small mammal collection, and meteorological sensor data.
This field site provides a clear contrast to the wilderness area at Chase Lake (which includes the terrestrial site,
Woodworth), which will allow researchers to better understand how grazing impacts prairie ecosystems and biodiversity. Understanding the impact of cattle grazing on the mix of grass species and monitoring invasive grass species will be of particular interest here.
NEON data will help researchers monitor the effects of climate change on the Northern Plains ecosystem. Over the last 30 years, the hydrological cycle in the plains has changed dramatically, trending wetter overall and diverging from the historical ten-year cycles. Temperatures are also rising, leading to changes in plant phenology cycles and species distribution that could negatively impact migratory bird populations and other animal species.
History and Land Ownership
PRLA were established on state trust land that is managed by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands.
Native American populations have lived in the Northern Plains for thousands of years, most notably tribes of the Mandan Nation. European settlers began arriving in large numbers when the Dakota Territory was established in 1861.
In 1889, when North Dakota became a state, the federal government gifted more than three million acres of land to the state through the Enabling Act. The land was to be held in trust in perpetuity for the purpose of funding public education in the state. Trust land was established in every North Dakota township for this purpose. Public schools were build on some parcels of land, and others were used to generate funds for schools through selling mineral rights or leasing land to local farmers for grazing. The DCFS site is located on land that has been leased for grazing for more than 100 years.
A North Dakota university planned to establish a field school on the site during the NEON construction period. While the school was never funded or built, Dakota Coteau Field School sites take their names from this plan.
Current Land Management
The land is currently used for cattle grazing. There are no other active land management activities at the site.
Land Use and Site Management History
The site has been managed by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands and leased to local farmers for cattle grazing since the late 1800s. It has never been tilled, built upon or used for other purposes since the North Dakota territory was established.
The surrounding area is changing rapidly, with more land being converted to corn and soybean farming.