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- For information on Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes, contact:
- Andy Stoltman
Central Sand Hills Ecological Landscape
Landscape at a Glance
|Physical & Biotic Environment|
1,388,705 acres (2,170 square miles), representing 3.9 % of the land area of the State of Wisconsin.
Typical of south central Wisconsin; mean growing season of 144 days, mean annual temperature is 44.8 deg. F, average January minimum temperature is 4deg. F, average August maximum temperature is 81deg. F, mean annual precipitation is 33 inches, mean annual snowfall is 44 inches. Although the climate is suitable for agricultural row crops, small grains, and pastures, the sandy soils somewhat limit agricultural potential.
Bedrock exposures are limited but include Precambrian rhyolite bluffs, and a vertical exposure of Ordovician St. Peter sandstone with a thin dolomite cap at Gibraltar Rock in Columbia County.
Geology & Landforms
The landforms in this Ecological Landscape include a series of glacial moraines (the Johnstown Moraine is the terminal moraine of the Green Bay lobe; the Arnott Moraine is older, and has more subdued topography. Pitted outwash is extensive in some areas. Glacial tunnel channels occur here, e.g., in Waushara County, just east of and visible from I-39.
Soils are primarily sands. Organic soils underlie wetlands such as tamarack swamps and sedge meadows. Muck farming still occurs in some areas.
Mosaic of extensive wetlands and small kettle lakes in the outwash areas, and the headwaters of coldwater streams originating in glacial moraines. Some seepage lakes and ponds exhibit dramatic natural water level fluctuations which create important Inland Beach and Coastal Plain Marsh habitats. The Wisconsin River and a short but ecologically important stretch of the lower Baraboo River flow through this Ecological Landscape. Other important rivers include the Fox, Grand, Mecan, Montello, Puchyan, and White. Large impoundments occur on the Wisconsin (Lake Wisconsin), Fox (Buffalo and Puckaway lakes) and Grand (Grand River Marsh) rivers.
Current vegetation is more than one-third agricultural crops, one third forest, and almost 20% grasslands with smaller amounts of open wetland, open water, shrubs, unvegetated (termed "barren" in WISCLAND), and urban areas. Large contiguous areas of any of the major natural or surrogate vegetation types are uncommon.
(based on data from Portage, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake, and Columbia. counties)
182,035, 3.2% of the state total
59 persons/ sq. mile
Per Capita Income
Important Economic Sectors
The largest employment sectors in 2007 were: Government (13.2% vs. 12.1% statewide); Tourism-related (12.6% vs. 11.2%), Manufacturing (non-wood) (12.0% vs. 11.7%) and Health care & social services (9.4% vs. 10.7%).
Scattered Federal Waterfowl Production Areas, Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, scattered state-owned and managed lands, including Hartman Creek State Park, several State Wildlife Areas, Fisheries Areas, and Natural Areas. A map showing public land ownership (county, state, and federal) and private lands enrolled in the Forest Tax Programs in this Ecological Landscape can be found at the end of this chapter.
Other Notable Ownerships
The Nature Conservancy has been active in this Ecological Landscape, with projects at sites that include Summerton Bog and Page Creek Marsh.
|Considerations for Planning & Management|
Important concerns and considerations in the Central Sand Hills include the fragmentation and isolation of major habitats, groundwater withdrawals, ground and surface water contamination, hydrologic disruption due to ditching and diking, fire suppression and the loss of fire-dependent habitats and species, shoreline development, and the introduction and spread of invasive species. Poor water quality exists in some lakes and impoundments. Ground water contamination is also an issue in this Ecological Landscape. Excessive groundwater withdrawals could have serious negative consequences in areas supporting coldwater streams and seepage lakes, and within the recharge areas of groundwater-dependent natural communities such as Coastal Plain Marsh, Calcareous Fen, Tamarack Swamp, and Southern Sedge Meadow. Fire suppression has altered successional pathways that maintained savannas, prairies and other fire-adapted or dependent vegetation.
Species of Greatest Conservation Need
The following species are listed according to their probability of occurring in the Central Sand Hills Ecological Landscape, based on the findings in the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan.
|Acadian Flycatcher||Empidonax virescens||3|
|American Bittern||Botaurus lentiginosus||3|
|American Woodcock||Scolopax minor||3|
|Bald Eagle||Haliaeetus leucocephalus||3|
|Black Tern||Chlidonias niger||3|
|Black-billed Cuckoo||Coccyzus erythropthalmus||3|
|Blue-winged Teal||Anas discors||3|
|Blue-winged Warbler||Vermivora pinus||3|
|Brown Thrasher||Toxostoma rufum||3|
|Cerulean Warbler||Dendroica cerulea||3|
|Eastern Meadowlark||Sturnella magna||3|
|Field Sparrow||Spizella pusilla||3|
|Forster's Tern||Sterna forsteri||3|
|Grasshopper Sparrow||Ammodramus savannarum||3|
|Henslow's Sparrow||Ammodramus henslowii||3|
|Least Flycatcher||Empidonax minimus||3|
|Northern Bobwhite||Colinus virginianus||3|
|Northern Harrier||Circus cyaneus||3|
|Red-headed Woodpecker||Melanerpes erythrocephalus||3|
|Red-shouldered Hawk||Buteo lineatus||3|
|Short-billed Dowitcher||Limnodromus griseus||3|
|Vesper Sparrow||Pooecetes gramineus||3|
|Western Meadowlark||Sturnella neglecta||3|
|Whooping Crane||Grus americana||3|
|Willow Flycatcher||Empidonax traillii||3|
|Wood Thrush||Hylocichla mustelina||3|
|Yellow-billed Cuckoo||Coccyzus americanus||3|
|American Golden Plover||Pluvialis dominica||2|
|Golden-winged Warbler||Vermivora chrysoptera||2|
|Hudsonian Godwit||Limosa haemastica||2|
|Lark Sparrow||Chondestes grammacus||2|
|Le Conte's Sparrow||Ammodramus leconteii||2|
|Northern Goshawk||Accipiter gentilis||2|
|Red Crossbill||Loxia curvirostra||2|
|Rusty Blackbird||Euphagus carolinus||2|
|Short-eared Owl||Asio flammeus||2|
|Solitary Sandpiper||Tringa solitaria||2|
|Upland Sandpiper||Bartramia longicauda||2|
|Yellow Rail||Coturnicops noveboracensis||2|
|Barn Owl||Tyto alba||1|
|Black-throated Blue Warbler||Dendroica caerulescens||1|
|Buff-breasted Sandpiper||Tryngites subruficollis||1|
|Canada Warbler||Wilsonia canadensis||1|
|Greater Prairie-Chicken||Tympanuchus cupido||1|
|Horned Grebe||Podiceps auritus||1|
|Lesser Scaup||Aythya affinis||1|
|Loggerhead Shrike||Lanius ludovicianus||1|
|Marbled Godwit||Limosa fedoa||1|
|Prothonotary Warbler||Protonotaria citrea||1|
|Trumpeter Swan||Cygnus buccinator||1|
|Black Buffalo||Ictiobus niger||3|
|Lake Sturgeon||Acipenser fulvescens||3|
|Least Darter||Etheostoma microperca||3|
|Shoal Chub (Speckled Chub)||Macrhybopsis hyostoma||3|
|Western Sand Darter||Ammocrypta clara||3|
|Banded Killifish||Fundulus diaphanus||2|
|Greater Redhorse||Moxostoma valenciennesi||1|
|Pugnose Shiner||Notropis anogenus||1|
|Redfin Shiner||Lythrurus umbratilis||1|
|River Redhorse||Moxostoma carinatum||1|
|Reptiles and Amphibians||Score|
|Blanding's Turtle||Emydoidea blandingii||3|
|Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle||Apalone mutica||3|
|Ornate Box Turtle||Terrapene ornata||3|
|Western Slender Glass Lizard||Ophisaurus attenuatus||3|
|Bull Snake||Pituophis catenifer||2|
|Four-toed Salamander||Hemidactylium scutatum||2|
|Pickerel Frog||Rana palustris||2|
|Yellow-bellied Racer||Coluber constrictor||2|
|Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake||Sistrurus catenatus catenatus||1|
|Wood Turtle||Glyptemys insculpta||1|
|Franklin's Ground Squirrel||Spermophilus franklinii||3|
|Eastern Red Bat||Lasiurus borealis||2|
|Gray Wolf||Canis lupus||2|
|Hoary Bat||Lasiurus cinereus||2|
|Northern Long-eared Bat||Myotis septentrionalis||2|
|Prairie Vole||Microtus ochrogaster||2|
|Silver-haired Bat||Lasionycteris noctivagans||2|
|Water Shrew||Sorex palustris||2|
|Northern Flying Squirrel||Glaucomys sabrinus||1|
|Woodland Jumping Mouse||Napaeozapus insignis||1|
|Woodland Vole||Microtus pinetorum||1|
Natural community management opportunities
The Central Sand Hills Ecological Landscape contains opportunities to manage for the following natural communities, based on the findings in the Wildlife Action Plan (originally presented by the Ecosystem Management Team).
Description of Terms Used to Define Opportunities for Protection, Restoration and/or Management of Natural Communities by Ecological Landscapes
A major opportunity for sustaining the natural community in the Ecological Landscape exists, either because many significant occurrences of the natural community have been recorded in the landscape or major restoration activities are likely to be successful maintaining the community's composition, structure, and ecological function over a longer period of time.
Although the natural community does not occur extensively or commonly in the Ecological Landscape, one to several occurrences do occur and are important in sustaining the community in the state. In some cases, important opportunities may exist because the natural community may be restricted to just one or a few Ecological Landscapes within the state and there may be a lack of opportunities elsewhere.
The natural community occurs in the Ecological Landscape, but better management opportunities appear to exist in other parts of the state.
General management opportunities 1
Fire-dependent communities were once common and widespread in the Central Sand Hills. Although today's examples are mostly small remnants, there are excellent opportunities to manage for fire-dependent and fire-adapted communities such as oak forest, oak woodland, oak savanna, tallgrass prairie, sedge meadow and fen. Remnant savannas, both Oak Barrens and Oak Openings, occur on dry and dry-mesic sites scattered throughout the Central Sand Hills. All of these communities have high potential to support rare plants, invertebrates and reptiles.
Dry forests of white, black and bur oak are common, though forest management at large scales is constrained by ownership patterns and small tract size and current land uses. Management of oak forests and woodlands could be integrated with management of oak savanna, prairie and wetlands. This would be especially appropriate on public and private lands managed mostly for conservation purposes. Mixed forests of pine and oak are locally common, and the Central Sand Hills is one of two ecological landscapes where good examples of the Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest community have been documented.
Numerous springs and coldwater streams emanate from the end moraine that forms the western boundary of the Central Sand Hills. Wetland communities associated with these glacial landforms include fen, sedge meadow, low prairie, shrub swamp and tamarack swamp; some of these wetlands are quite alkaline and differ in composition from those found in the more acid environments to the west.
Large wetland complexes such as those found at Germania Marsh, Comstock Marsh, Grand River Marsh and Fountain Creek Prairie contain good examples of fen, sedge meadow, wet prairie, shrub swamp and tamarack swamp. The Central Sand Hills contains more occurrences of the globally rare Coastal Plain Marsh community than any other landscape in Wisconsin. Coastal Plain Marsh communities provide habitat for rare vascular plants and invertebrates and are associated with sandy or gravelly shores of seepage lakes that exhibit dramatic natural water level fluctuations. The US Threatened Fassett's locoweed is strongly associated with this and the inland beach communities. Floodplain forest is significant along stretches of the major rivers such as the Wisconsin, Baraboo and Montello and provides important habitat for resident and migratory wildlife.
Important warmwater rivers include the Fox, Montello, Baraboo and a short but ecologically significant stretch of the Wisconsin. This section includes Pine Island State Wildlife Area, an area associated floodplain habitats, as well as significant savanna and grassland remnants. Dams on several of the major rivers have created very large shallow impoundments, including Buffalo Lake, Lake Puckaway and Lake Wisconsin, and these offer valuable wildlife habitat but need rehabilitation to address their poor water quality. Green Lake, Wisconsin's deepest inland lake, is located in the east central portion of the Central Sand Hills.
Bedrock exposures are rare in the Central Sand Hills. However, they include good examples of glades, cliffs and talus slopes, which support rare plants and other unique vegetation, as well as some rare animals.
1. The text presented here is a summarized version of a longer section developed for the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.
Central Sand Hills maps
Printable maps from the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.
- Finley's Vegetation of the Mid-1800s
- Land Cover of the Mid-1800's
- Landtype Associations (LTAs)
- Public Land Ownership, Easements and Private Land Enrolled in Forest Tax Programs
- Ecologically Significant Places
- Exceptional and Outstanding Resource Waters and 303(d) Degraded Waters (2010 Update)
- WISCLAND Land Cover (1992)
- Soil Regions
- Relative Tree Density in the Mid-1800s
- Population Density, Cities, and Transportation
Also see the statewide maps from the Ecological Landscapes Handbook.
Central Sand Hills Landtype Associations
Landtype Associations (LTAs) are units of the National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units (NHFEU), a hierarchical ecological land classification system. LTAs are much smaller than Ecological Landscapes, ranging in size from 10,000 and 300,000 acres. In Wisconsin, they are usually based on glacial features like individual moraines or outwash plains. LTAs can be very useful for planning at finer scales within an Ecological Landscape.
The following are the LTAs associated with the Central Sand Hills Ecological Landscape. The Central Sand Hills LTA map can be used to locate these LTAs. Clicking on an LTA in the list below will open a data table for that LTA in PDF format. Descriptions are included, where available.
- 222Kb01. Arnott-Almond Moraine Complex
- 222Kb03. Wild Rose -Wautoma Moraine Complex
- 222Kb04. Coloma Plain
- 222Kb05. Buffalo Lake Outwash Channels
- 222Kd02. Green Lake Moraines
- 222Kd07. Princeton Drumlins
- 222Kb06. Lewiston Basin
- 222Kd08. French Creek Moraines
- 222Kd01. Rio Moraines
- 222Kd04. Pardeeville Plains
- 222Kb07. Portage Floodplain
- 222Kd05. Prentice Creek Hills
- 222Kd03. Poynette Hills
- 222Kd06. Moon Valley Plains
- 222Kd09. Roxbury Hills