You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Loss of diversity in the Missouri Ozark Highlands Places Ecosystem at Risk

Photo of The upper left is the modeled historic probability of occurrence of shortleaf pine based on General Land Office Survey data, the upper right is the current probability of occurrence of shortleaf pine based on FIA data.  The lower left is the modeled historic probability of occurrence of white oak based on General Land Office Survey data, the lower right is the current probability of occurrence of white oak based on FIA data. Daniel Dey, USDA Forest ServiceThe upper left is the modeled historic probability of occurrence of shortleaf pine based on General Land Office Survey data, the upper right is the current probability of occurrence of shortleaf pine based on FIA data. The lower left is the modeled historic probability of occurrence of white oak based on General Land Office Survey data, the lower right is the current probability of occurrence of white oak based on FIA data. Daniel Dey, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Past land use over the last 200 years has made Missouri's Ozark Highlands less diverse and more homogeneous in the condition of its vegetation. This trend places the ecoregion at more at risk to environmental degradation and catastrophic resource loss from invasive species outbreaks, extreme weather events, or changes in the climate than from natural forest declines due to native insects and diseases. Research by Forest Service scientists provides information to help managers plan for ecosystem restoration, locate priority areas, better define desired future conditions, and design efficient and effective management practices.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Dey, Daniel C., Dr. 
Research Location : Missouri
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 504

Summary

The Ozark Highlands of Missouri were once a diverse mosaic of prairies, savannas, woodlands, and forests. Today the region is characterized by forests or agricultural land, and many of the natural communities that supported a diversity of plants and animals have been lost. Restoration of natural communities is a primary management goal for the Mark Twain National Forest, other federal and state agencies, and conservation organizations. To guide restoration, managers need a better understanding of the historic communities and landcape conditions, and how they have changed. Forest Service scientists analyzed General Land Office surveys from 1815 to 1850 to characterize the historic vegetation and compared this with modern conditions during 2004 to 2008, which they determined using Forest Inventory and Analysis data. They found that oak species have decreased in dominance, and a variety of other species such as hickories, eastern redcedar, elms, and maples have become more prominent. Currently, trees are smaller in diameter and occur in dense forests´┐Żlost are the savanna and woodland communities. The Ozarks are largely a mature forest landscape that is less diverse and more homogeneous than historically existed. This finding has serious implications to ecosystem health, productivity and resilience to future stresses from changing climate and invasive species. Restoration aims to reverse this trend.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Mark Twain National Forest
  • National Fire Plan Program
  • University of Missouri, Columbia