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Landform regions of the glaciated Central Lowlands

Content Author:
Dr. Pete Moore

Continental ice sheets re-shaped the landscape in much of the north-central USA during the Pleistocene. In many ways, the ice did the same kinds of things in most of the places it reached -- it eroded prominent uplands, filled ancient valleys, and covered vast areas in till. Even so, there is a diversity of different landscapes across the region that affect the way that we experience and use the land. Varying extents of Pleistocene ice advances have left behind a patchwork of landscapes of different age, and whose topography, soils, and hydrology often differ substantially. Delineating key landscape differences can help to reveal new insights into the geomorphic development of low-relief landscapes and the physical basis of major land resource boundaries.

A new open-access article published in the Journal of Maps presents a new map of landform regions for the portion of the Central Lowlands physiographic province that was glaciated in the past 1 million years. Surfaces across the study area were last visited by ice as recently as 10,200 years ago, or as much as 500,000 years ago or longer. The landform regions also differ in their predominant soil textures and topography. This paper comes from AGL alum Joshua McDanel's (M.S., 2019) thesis research.

Map from McDanel et al 2022 showing landform regions of the central lowlands.
Map showing the landform regions of the glaciated Central Lowlands showing landform regions delineated in McDanel et al, 2022.

This map will, among other things, serve as a basis for evaluating the differences in space and time in drainage network development in low-relief areas affected by continental glaciation. This project has been in partnership with the Geospatial Lab for Soil Informatics at ISU, the Gran lab at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and the Anders lab at the University of Illinois. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation award # EAR-1656985.