Young Person's Guide to the Prairie

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9780977076406: Young Person's Guide to the Prairie
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Young Person's Guide to the Prairie is a book which goes beyond the basic field guide to describe the prairie as a living system. Anyone interested in prairies, natural history, and ecology, will find many complex concepts explained in an easy to read, understandable writing style. What will the reader learn? What a prairie is, and what is unique about prairie systems. Why prairies are where they are, how they got there, how they stayed there. Different types of prairies - what is different and why? How can you put together an understanding of climate, soil, glaciers, plants, animals, and microorganisms, and make sense of it all? What is a system in nature, how do living things and non-living things work together to create an interacting system? Examples of plants and animals one might find on a prairie and how they have adapted to life on the prairie. 32 pages of color photographs, black and white illustrations, and diagrams.

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About the Author:

Wendy Munson Scullin is a writer, gardener, ethnohorticultural researcher, prairie scholar, and natural history enthusiast.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

What is it like to step into a prairie, when the entire prairie "orchestra" is playing all at once? When you walk out onto the prairie on a summer day you see grass and sky in every direction. Grass in shades of green, purple, yellow and brown. Blue sky that touches the ground so that if you lie in the grass, you feel as though the green blades are stirring the sky with their tips. You can see clouds moving silently miles away, sometimes casting irregular shadows over large areas of prairie. When standing, you can feel the wind on your face and upper body, but around your legs, where the plants grow thickest, the wind is slowed by the plants' dense stems. The plants smell green and fresh, and although some have very little scent, others produce a strong fragrance when brushed. Compare this to a woods which often smells damp and mossy, a bit acidic with its decomposing leaves and logs, and where the wind is slowed far above your head.

The soil under your feet may be soft and sink in some places when you step where pocket gophers have been digging. The smell of warm soil is everywhere, rich, clean, deep, and earthy; generated by the contributions of generations of plants and animals. Small birds may dart across the sky; much larger vultures, hawks, eagles, and osprey may circle overhead on the warm, rising air, hunting for a meal. Grasshoppers jump from the grass. Bees buzz from flower to flower, intent on their work, ignoring you. Butterflies of all colors flutter by, stopping at a flower or resting on a blade of grass. Bright dragonflies and damsel flies hover along your path if there is water nearby. A mouse or vole may scurry under the grasses. Years ago, you might have seen herds of bison grazing in the green distance. There are flowers of yellow, purple, white, blue, pink, and red scattered in the grass. All around you is the noisy silence of grasses blowing in the wind. This is the whole prairie working together as if it were an orchestra. Much is going on to make all this happen. We will take a look at some of the parts that make the prairie. Just as an orchestra has sections of string instruments, brass, woodwinds, and percussion; a prairie has plants, animals, insects, and soil which form the whole system. We use the word system to describe something which is made of many pieces working together to make something more complex than each piece alone. Move one piece and the entire system changes.

A prairie is a system which is a type of grassland. Grasslands have mostly grasses and flowering plants and a smaller number of woody plants with sturdy stems like trees, shrubs, and vines. While there may be trees and streams and large rocks, the grasses are most obvious; they are what you notice most about a prairie.

There are, however, many things needed other than plants in order to have a grassland. Largely hidden beneath the plants is soil. The soil is important not only because it holds the plants in place, but also because it holds water and nutrients used by plants. In the soil are insects, worms, and invisibly small living things like bacteria and fungi which are very important in forming soil and keeping it healthy; breaking down dead plants and recycling their components. Animals live in the soil, in the grass, and on or near the grass. Trees are found only in certain places where there is more water, usually near a stream or a pond or on a north-facing slope.

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Wendy Munson Scullin
Published by South River Press (2005)
ISBN 10: 0977076407 ISBN 13: 9780977076406
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Wendy Munson Scullin
Published by South River Press (2005)
ISBN 10: 0977076407 ISBN 13: 9780977076406
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