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Study Guides Restoration of Natural Communities in Missouri

Photo of The historic landscape of Missouri was more diverse than it is today.  In the past, a mosaic of oak/pine savannas, woodlands and forests intermingled across the state (top panel, left to right), but today the landscape is dominated by forests in the Ozark Highlands (lower panel) or agriculture and riparian forests in the Plains region of northern and western Missouri (photographs by Dan Dey and Paul Nelson, U.S. Forest Service). Brice Hanberry, University of MissouriThe historic landscape of Missouri was more diverse than it is today. In the past, a mosaic of oak/pine savannas, woodlands and forests intermingled across the state (top panel, left to right), but today the landscape is dominated by forests in the Ozark Highlands (lower panel) or agriculture and riparian forests in the Plains region of northern and western Missouri (photographs by Dan Dey and Paul Nelson, U.S. Forest Service). Brice Hanberry, University of MissouriSnapshot : Land use over the last 200 years has decreased diversity, and increased homogeneity, of the vegetative landscape of Missouri. This trend has put the state’s forested-prairie ecoregion in significant risk of environmental degradation and catastrophic resource loss from invasive species outbreaks, extreme weather events, or forest declines from native insects and diseases. Forest Service scientists have compared data from 1815 to 1850 with modern data from the Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program and 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 : The research includes the entire state of Missouri.
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 841

Summary

Missouri was once a mosaic of prairies, savannas, woodlands, and forests. Today the region is characterized by forests or agricultural land; many of the natural communities that supported a diversity of plants and animals are lost. Restoration of natural communities is a primary management goal for the Mark Twain National Forest, other federal and state land agencies, and conservation organizations. To guide restoration, a better understanding is needed of the historic communities and landscape conditions and how they have changed. Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Northern Research Station studied General Land Office surveys, circa 1815 to 1850, to characterize the historic vegetation and compared their findings with modern conditions, 2004 to 2008, from Forest Inventory and Analysis data. They found that oak species are less dominant and species such as hickories, eastern redcedar, elms, and maples have become more prominent. Trees are smaller in diameter and occur in dense forests; savanna and woodland communities are gone. The Ozarks are largely a mature forest landscape that is less diverse and more homogeneous; and, in western and northern Missouri, prairies have been converted to agriculture. These changes have serious implications to ecosystem health, productivity, and resilience to future stresses from changing climate and invasive species.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Forest Inventory Analysis
  • Mark Twain National Forest
  • National Fire Plan Program
  • Department of Geography, University of Missouri
  • Missouri Department of Conservation
  • The Department of Forestry, The School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri