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Scientific Name: Western Great Plains Cliff and Outcrop
Unique Identifier: CES303.665
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This system includes cliffs and outcrops throughout the Western Great Plains Division. Substrate can range from sandstone and limestone, which can often form bands in the examples of this system. Vegetation is restricted to shelves, cracks and crevices in the rock. However, this system differs from Western Great Plains Badlands (CES303.663) in that often the soil is slightly developed and less erodible, and some grass and shrub species can occur at greater than 10%. Common species in this system include short shrubs such as Rhus trilobata and Artemisia longifolia and mixedgrass species such as Bouteloua curtipendula and Bouteloua gracilis and Calamovilfa longifolia. Drought and wind erosion are the most common natural dynamics affecting this system. Vegetation is typically restricted to shelves, cracks, and crevices where soil can accumulate.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: The granite glades and rock outcrops of the Llano Uplift of Texas have been reclassified to Llano Uplift Acidic Forest, Woodland and Glade (CES303.657). The carbonate glades, barrens, and cliffs of the Edwards Plateau of Texas have been reclassified to Edwards Plateau Carbonate Glade and Barrens (CES303.655) and Edwards Plateau Cliff (CES303.653), respectively.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES303.653 Edwards Plateau Cliff
CES303.663 Western Great Plains Badlands
CES303.664 Southwestern Great Plains Canyon

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL001521 Artemisia longifolia - Calamovilfa longifolia Sparse Vegetation
CEGL001951 Arenaria hookeri Barrens Vegetation
CEGL002045 Sandstone Midwest Dry Cliff Sparse Vegetation
CEGL002047 Siltstone - Sandstone Rock Outcrop Sparse Vegetation
CEGL002290 Sandstone Great Plains Xeric Butte - Bluff Sparse Vegetation
CEGL002294 Shale Barren Slopes Sparse Vegetation
CEGL002296 Limestone Butte Sparse Vegetation
CEGL002297 Sandstone Butte Sparse Vegetation
CEGL004917 Lesquerella (gordonii, ovalifolia) - Schizachyrium scoparium Grassland
CEGL005257 Sandstone Great Plains Dry Cliff Sparse Vegetation


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

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Cliff (Landform)  
Very Shallow Soil  
Flood Scouring  
W-Patch/High Intensity  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Artemisia longifolia G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
Rhus trilobata G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
Lesquerella gordonii G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Lesquerella ovalifolia G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Bouteloua curtipendula G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Bouteloua gracilis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)  
Calamovilfa longifolia G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: CO, KS, MT, ND, NE, NM, OK, TX, WY
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: MB
Global Range: This system ranges throughout the Western Great Plains Division from northern Texas to southern Canada.

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
26 Northern Great Plains Steppe Confident or certain
27 Central Shortgrass Prairie Confident or certain
28 Southern Shortgrass Prairie Confident or certain
33 Central Mixed-Grass Prairie Confident or certain
37 Osage Plains/Flint Hills Prairie Predicted or probable
66 Aspen Parkland Predicted or probable
67 Fescue-Mixed Grass Prairie Predicted or probable

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
20 Missouri River Plateau Possible
22 Wyoming Basin Possible
25 Rio Grande Basin Predicted or probable
26 Chihuahuan Desert Confident or certain
27 Great Plains Tablelands Confident or certain
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Predicted or probable
29 Wyoming Highlands Confident or certain
30 Northwestern Great Plains Confident or certain
31 Sandhills Confident or certain
33 Western Great Plains Confident or certain
34 Southern Great Plains Confident or certain
35 Edwards Plateau Confident or certain
38 Eastern Great Plains Confident or certain
39 Prairie Coteau Lands Possible
43 Till Plains Predicted or probable

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 3142

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 02Oct2014
Element Description Author(s): S. Menard and K. Kindscher

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

  • 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.

  • Rolfsmeier, S. B., and G. Steinauer. 2010. Terrestrial ecological systems and natural communities of Nebraska (Version IV - March 9, 2010). Nebraska Natural Heritage Program, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Lincoln, NE. 228 pp.

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Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
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Version 7.1 (2 February 2009)
Data last updated: November 2016