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Scientific Name: Western Great Plains Mesquite Scrub Woodland and Shrubland
Unique Identifier: CES303.668
Classification Confidence: 1 - Strong

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Summary: This system is found primarily in the southern portion of the Western Great Plains Division, primarily in Texas, Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico. It is dominated by Prosopis glandulosa with shortgrass species in the understory. Ziziphus obtusifolia and Atriplex canescens can codominate in some examples, as can Opuntia species in heavily grazed areas. Shortgrass species Bouteloua gracilis or Bouteloua dactyloides are typically present. Other grasses may include Aristida purpurea, Bouteloua curtipendula, Bouteloua eriopoda, Bouteloua hirsuta, Muhlenbergia torreyi, Pleuraphis jamesii, Sporobolus airoides, and Sporobolus cryptandrus. Historically this system probably occurred as a natural component on more fertile soils and along drainages, but it has expanded its range into prairie uplands in recent decades. In Texas, in what are considered the natural alluvial setting of this system, other overstory species may include Celtis laevigata var. reticulata, Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii, Populus deltoides, and Salix nigra. In these settings, Prosopis glandulosa is dominant in the shrub layer, but other shrub species encountered include small representatives of the overstory, and Ziziphus obtusifolia, Prunus angustifolia, and Baccharis spp. Herbaceous species present in the understory may include Panicum virgatum, Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana, Nassella leucotricha, and Schizachyrium scoparium. Non-native species such as Cynodon dactylon, Bromus catharticus, Sorghum halepense, and Bromus arvensis are also commonly present and may be dominant.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: With fire suppression and grazing, Prosopis glandulosa has been able to extend its range and become dense in examples of Western Great Plains Shortgrass Prairie (CES303.672) or Central Mixedgrass Prairie (CES303.659). Those areas should still be considered part of the prairie system. In Landfire mapzone 26 BpS modeling workshops, this was modeled in its limited extent along drainages rather than as the pervasive EVT. Because Prosopis glandulosa is the characteristic dominant of this system, and that species can occupy various sites and is thought to have expanded on the landscape as a result of land use, it is difficult to distinguish this system from areas where Prosopis glandulosa has invaded.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES303.659 Central Mixedgrass Prairie
CES303.672 Western Great Plains Shortgrass Prairie
CES303.678 Western Great Plains Floodplain
CES303.956 Western Great Plains Riparian

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL002131 Vachellia farnesiana - (Prosopis glandulosa) Riparian Woodland
CEGL002133 Prosopis glandulosa / Bouteloua curtipendula - Nassella leucotricha Woodland
CEGL002194 Prosopis glandulosa / Bouteloua curtipendula Ruderal Shrubland
CEGL003877 Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa / Bouteloua gracilis - Bouteloua dactyloides Ruderal Shrubland
CEGL004070 Schizachyrium scoparium - Bouteloua curtipendula - Nassella leucotricha Grassland
CEGL004211 Schizachyrium scoparium - (Sorghastrum nutans) - Sporobolus compositus var. compositus - Liatris punctata var. mucronata Grassland
CEGL004939 Prosopis glandulosa - Ziziphus obtusifolia Shrubland
CEGL004948 Bouteloua dactyloides Modified Grassland


Land Cover Class: Shrubland
Spatial Pattern: Large patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: Yes
Wetland: No
Isolated Wetland: No

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Shrubland (Shrub-dominated)  
F-Patch/Medium Intensity  
G-Patch/Medium Intensity  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Prosopis glandulosa G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Ziziphus obtusifolia G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Atriplex canescens G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Aristida purpurea G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Bouteloua curtipendula G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Bouteloua eriopoda G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Bouteloua gracilis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Buchloe dactyloides G4 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Pleuraphis mutica G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Sporobolus cryptandrus G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: NM, OK, TX
Global Range: This system is primarily found in the southern portion of the Western Great Plains division, particularly in Texas, Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
303-Western Great Plains C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
27 Central Shortgrass Prairie Possible
28 Southern Shortgrass Prairie Confident or certain
29 Edwards Plateau Confident or certain
33 Central Mixed-Grass Prairie Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
26 Chihuahuan Desert Confident or certain
27 Great Plains Tablelands Confident or certain
34 Southern Great Plains Confident or certain
35 Edwards Plateau Confident or certain
38 Eastern Great Plains Predicted or probable

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 5317
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1111
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2111

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Element Description Edition Date: 02Oct2014
Element Description Author(s): S. Menard, K. Kindscher, K.A. Schulz, mod. L. Elliott and J. Teague

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Barbour, M. G., and W. D. Billings, editors. 1988. North American terrestrial vegetation. Cambridge University Press, New York. 434 pp.

  • Bell, J. R. 2005. Vegetation classification at Lake Meredith NRA and Alibates Flint Quarries NM. A report for the USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program prepared by NatureServe, Arlington, VA. 172 pp. []

  • Comer, P., D. Faber-Langendoen, R. Evans, S. Gawler, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, K. Snow, J. Teague, and R. White. 2003-present. Ecological systems of the United States: A working classification of U.S. terrestrial systems. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.

  • Elliott, L. 2013. Draft descriptions of systems, mapping subsystems, and vegetation types for Phases VI. Unpublished documents. Texas Parks and Wildlife Ecological Systems Classification and Mapping Project. Texas Natural History Survey, The Nature Conservancy of Texas, San Antonio.

  • Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.

  • Shiflet, T. N., editor. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Society for Range Management. Denver, CO. 152 pp.

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Data last updated: March 2019