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Fire-adapted natural communities of the Ozark Highlands at the time of European settlement and nowAuthor(s): Paul W. Nelson
Source: In: Dey, Daniel C.; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Clark, Stacy L.; Schweitzer, Callie J., eds. Proceedings of the 4th fire in eastern oak forests conference; 2011 May 17-19; Springfield, MO. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-102. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 92-102.
Publication Series: Proceedings - Paper (PR-P)
Station: Northern Research Station
PDF: View PDF (369.07 KB)
DescriptionThe Ozark Highlands Plateau of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas is home to more than 2,000 vascular plant species and at least 15,000 species of various animals of which over 150 are endemic. The Nation's most significant karst region occurs here, boasting the most springs of any state and more than 6,000 caves. Missouri's Ozark biota is sorted into 65 distinctive mappable natural communities. Misconstrued as "oak-hickory forest", analysis of Missouri's historic vegetation, fire history studies, plant adaptations, and responses to fire management reveal that the Ozark's was a landscape dominated by a complex mosaic of fire and topography-mediated grass and forb-rich savannas, woodlands, glades, forests, and fens. Much of today's native Ozark vegetation is deceptively out of character for its structure, composition, species richness and former landscape patterns due to having suffered the consequences of destructive post-European settlement overgrazing, poor farming, fire cessation, and soil loss. Fallacies abound that "resilient" Ozark ecosystems will recover, succeed, and migrate in the face of climate change and homogenizing vegetation transformation. Monitoring of remnant high quality natural communities reveals their susceptibility to irreversible conservative species loss and simplification. Managers must understand and distinguish between the achievement of true ecological restoration outcomes of high quality habitats over personal/professional biases including grazing woodlands, timber production, and singular species emphasis.
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CitationNelson, Paul W. 2012. Fire-adapted natural communities of the Ozark Highlands at the time of European settlement and now. In: Dey, Daniel C.; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Clark, Stacy L.; Schweitzer, Callie J., eds. Proceedings of the 4th fire in eastern oak forests conference; 2011 May 17-19; Springfield, MO. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-102. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 92-102.
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