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P.O. Box 43
Williamsburg, MO 63388

(573) 254-3990

Research Projects

Ecological Land Classification

Period: January 30, 2003 - Present

Contact: Fred Young, Wei Li
Organization: University of Missouri
Funding Source: Prairie Fork Trust

Objectives: This project will provide maps and GIS accessible databases identifying ecological landscapes (Landtype Associations) and ecological landtypes (ELTs) for Prairie Fork Conservation Area and the surrounding region (see map). All ecological units will have descriptions and databases including information about their landforms, geologic parent materials, soil properties, historic vegetation, current vegetation and past management. Prairie Fork CA’s future management direction and associated land treatments will be based on the determined ecological landtypes developed from this project. Ecological landtypes will also be modeled for the larger project area and will include recommended management scenarios for natural community restoration. This will provide an ecological context for Prairie Forks and allow us to extend concepts learned there to the surrounding area. The databases will also be incorporated into Prairie Fork CA’s GIS based Natural Resource Information System being developed at UMC through a grant from the PFCA Trust. Consequently, these databases will be available for conservation education using emerging technologies and ecological concepts. The project will result in the establishment of a system of demonstration sites on PFCA and throughout the region, where the character of each ecological unit will be interpreted and management options, including the restoration of native ecosystems, will be displayed. This not only compliments the educational mission within Prairie Fork CA, but extends concepts developed there to surrounding lands. Finally, development of GIS databases, soils characterizations and demonstration materials will include students mentored by the investigators.

An ecological classification system (ECS) is a framework for mapping and describing units of land based on an integration of their physical and biological character. The Missouri Ecological Classification System Project has been working to apply the USFS National Hierarchy of Ecological Units (USDA Forest Service 1993) to land classification in Missouri since 1996. They have participated in the mapping of ecological regions, subregions and landscapes (LTAs) for the entire state. A pilot study in the Current River Hills in the southeastern Ozarks has successfully illustrated methods for integrating and modeling topography, geology, soils and vegetation in a GIS environment to derive ecological landtypes (ELTs) (Nigh et al 2000). Both LTAs and ELTs have proven very useful as a framework for identifying resource management potential and setting ecologically based objectives—particularly for the restoration of natural communities. This project will deliver maps and databases of the LTAs and ELTs, as well as the numerous physical and biological attributes that are used in their derivation. It will also demonstrate their use in resource management on the area and throughout the local region.

The initial phase of the National Cooperative Soil Survey is nearing completion in Missouri, and the “modernization” phase is about to begin. This will involve, among other things, updating existing soil mapping via GIS modeling, integration with ELT mapping, and sampling to more accurately characterize soil properties and behavior. The Prairie Fork project provides an ideal opportunity to develop a template for the future soil survey program in Missouri, and will result in state-of-the-art resource information that can be used for training students and professionals alike. Key to the “modernization” of the soil survey is to determine what soil properties within a given map unit will help point the land manager towards the restoration of an appropriate natural community – savannah or woodland/forest; prairie or savannah, etc.

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