Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Brice B. Hanberry
    Date: 2019
    Source: The Professional Geographer. doi: 10.1080/00330124.2019.1611460.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (472.0 KB)


    The Great Plains is the grasslands of the central United States, but precise delineation of this region has evaded agreement due to the transition between Great Plains grasslands and forests of the eastern United States. After comparing Great Plains delineations in readily available geographic information system layers, I established a northeastern boundary using evidence from historical tree surveys during the 1800s. Additionally, I described tree presence within the Great Plains over time and potential drivers of change. The definition documented here diverges from others by including most of Iowa and part of Illinois, and even small sections in Indiana and Wisconsin, but excluding Missouri due to regular tree presence overall at landscape scales of ecological subsections. In this definition, the Great Plains had an extent of 2.29 million km2 in fifteen states, including Indiana and Wisconsin, and 2.19 million km2 after removal of open forests in Oklahoma and Texas. Tree presence occurs within the Great Plains and tree encroachment is not a new process; however, tree encroachment is increasing in the Great Plains, which causes a decrease in the grasslands region. Nevertheless, clarifying the historical eastern boundary provides a solution to the problem of competing versions of the Great Plains region.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Hanberry, Brice B. 2019. Defining the historical northeastern forested boundary of the Great Plains Grasslands in the United States. The Professional Geographer. doi: 10.1080/00330124.2019.1611460.


    Google Scholar


    ecotone, prairie, savanna, tree encroachment

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page