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Classification
Scientific Name: Southern Tallgrass Prairie
Unique Identifier: CES205.685
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This system of tallgrass prairies ranges from Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma south into Arkansas and Texas. It includes several subregional units or variants, which are defined biogeographically but with much overlap in floristics and ecological processes. This range includes the Flint Hills (EPA 28a) and portions of the Northern Cross Timbers (EPA 29a) of Kansas and Oklahoma, the Osage Plains (EPA 40b, 40c, 40d) of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, the southeastern Springfield Plateau (EPA 39a, 39b? of Arkansas and Missouri, the Arkansas Valley Plains (EPA 37d, 37e) of Arkansas and Oklahoma, and the "Grand Prairie" or "Fort Worth Prairie" (EPA 29d) of Texas,; where it is the primary natural system. It is also scattered in the rest of the Cross Timbers (EPA 29b. 29c, 29e, 29f, 29g, 29h), ranging south into the Lampasas Cutplain of Texas (EPA 29e). It is distinguished from Central Tallgrass Prairie (CES205.683) by having more species with southwestern geographic affinities and the presence of a thin soil layer over limestone beds ranging to more acidic substrates, although some areas of deeper soil are found within the region, especially on lower slopes, draws, and terraces. Because of the presence of the rocky substrate close to the surface and the rolling topography, this area is relatively unsuitable for agriculture. The Flint Hills contain one of the largest remaining, relatively intact pieces of Southern Tallgrass Prairie. The vegetation in this system is typified by tallgrass species such as Andropogon gerardii, Panicum virgatum, Schizachyrium scoparium, and Sorghastrum nutans, which typically form a dense cover. A moderate to high density of forb species also occurs. Species composition varies geographically, with Oligoneuron rigidum, Liatris punctata, Symphyotrichum ericoides, Lespedeza capitata, and Viola pedatifida commonly occurring in the Flint Hills and Osage Plains. Areas of deeper soil, especially lower slopes along draws, slopes and terraces, can include Baptisia alba var. macrophylla, Liatris pycnostachya, and Vernonia baldwinii. Shrub and tree species are relatively infrequent and, if present, constitute less than 10% cover. Fire and grazing constitute the major dynamic processes for this region. Although many of the native common plant species still occur, grazing does impact this region. Poor grazing practices can lead to soil erosion and invasion by cool-season grasses such as Bromus inermis within its range.

In the Arkansas Valley Plains (EPA 37d, 37e) the prairies are interspersed with oak or pine-dominated woodlands. This region is distinctly bounded by the Boston Mountains to the north and the Ouachita Mountains to the south. The valley is characterized by broad, level to gently rolling uplands derived from shales and is much less rugged and more heavily impacted by Arkansas River erosional processes than the adjacent mountainous regions. In addition, the valley receives annual precipitation total of 5-15 cm (2-6 inches) less than the surrounding regions due to a rainshadow produced by a combination of prevailing western winds and mountain orographic effects. The shale-derived soils associated with the prairies are thin and droughty. The combined effect of droughty soils, reduced precipitation, and prevailing level topography create conditions highly conducive to the ignition and spread of fires. Stands are typically dominated by Andropogon gerardii, Sorghastrum nutans, Panicum virgatum, and Schizachyrium scoparium. Some extant examples of this system remain, but most are small and isolated. They were common on the western edge of the region where precipitation was lower and agriculture conversion was less extensive.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system includes prairies of the Flint Hills, in addition to prairies in Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri south of the glacial line, as well as those in the "Grand Prairie" or "Fort Worth Prairie" of Texas, ranging south into the Lampasas Cutplain (EPA 29d and 29e), This revised (August 2018) system now includes prairies formerly in Southwestern Ozarks Prairie and Woodland (CES202.326) (also called "Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie" and originally "Ozark Prairie and Woodland"), which includes grasslands interspersed with woodlands in southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas, and Arkansas Valley Prairie and Woodland (CES202.312), in a similar context in the Arkansas River Valley, which have now been merged in here; Texas Blackland Tallgrass Prairie (CES205.684) remains as a distinctive system.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES203.377 West Gulf Coastal Plain Northern Calcareous Prairie
CES203.549 Lower Mississippi Alluvial Plain Grand Prairie
CES205.683 Central Tallgrass Prairie
CES205.684 Texas Blackland Tallgrass Prairie


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL002024 Andropogon gerardii - Panicum virgatum - Helianthus grosseserratus Wet Meadow
CEGL002201 Andropogon gerardii - Sorghastrum nutans - Schizachyrium scoparium Flint Hills Grassland
CEGL002204 Andropogon gerardii - Sorghastrum nutans Unglaciated Grassland
CEGL002211 Schizachyrium scoparium - Sorghastrum nutans - Danthonia spicata - Silene regia Chert Grassland
CEGL002212 Schizachyrium scoparium - Sorghastrum nutans - Andropogon ternarius - Coreopsis grandiflora Sandstone - Shale Grassland
CEGL002251 Schizachyrium scoparium - Bouteloua curtipendula - Rudbeckia missouriensis - Mentzelia oligosperma Wooded Grassland
CEGL003628 Juniperus virginiana / Schizachyrium scoparium Ruderal Forest
CEGL004211 Schizachyrium scoparium - (Sorghastrum nutans) - Sporobolus compositus var. compositus - Liatris punctata var. mucronata Grassland
CEGL004782 Juncus (acuminatus, brachycarpus) - Panicum virgatum - Bidens aristosa - Hibiscus lasiocarpos Wet Meadow
CEGL005280 Schizachyrium scoparium - Sorghastrum nutans - Tradescantia bracteata Alkaline Bedrock Grassland
CEGL007827 Schizachyrium scoparium - Dichanthelium spp. - Buchnera americana - Echinacea pallida Grassland
CEGL008564 Schizachyrium scoparium - Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana - Croton michauxii var. ellipticus Grassland



Classifiers

Land Cover Class: Herbaceous
Spatial Pattern: Large patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: Yes
Wetland: No
Isolated Wetland: No

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Herbaceous  
Graminoid  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Lowland  
Unglaciated  
Shallow Soil  
F-Landscape/Medium Intensity  
G-Landscape/Medium Intensity  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Hesperia attalus attalus
  (Dotted Skipper)
G3G4T2T4  
Silene regia
  (Royal Catchfly)
G3  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Amorpha canescens G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Dalea purpurea G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Lespedeza capitata G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Andropogon gerardii G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Bouteloua hirsuta G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Panicum virgatum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Schizachyrium scoparium G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Sorghastrum nutans G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 


Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
eristic
Exotic
Arizona elegans
  (Glossy Snake)
G5      
Aspidoscelis sexlineata
  (Six-lined Racerunner)
G5      
Chaetodipus hispidus
  (Hispid Pocket Mouse)
G5      
Coluber flagellum
  (Coachwhip)
G5      
Geomys bursarius
  (Plains Pocket Gopher)
G5      
Hesperia attalus attalus
  (Dotted Skipper)
G3G4T2T4      
Holbrookia maculata
  (Lesser Earless Lizard)
G5      
Ictidomys tridecemlineatus
  (Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel)
G5      
Microtus ochrogaster
  (Prairie Vole)
G5      
Onychomys leucogaster
  (Northern Grasshopper Mouse)
G5      
Phrynosoma cornutum
  (Texas Horned Lizard)
G4G5      
Reithrodontomys montanus
  (Plains Harvest Mouse)
G5      
Sigmodon hispidus
  (Hispid Cotton Rat)
G5      
Terrapene ornata
  (Ornate Box Turtle)
G5      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AR, KS, MO, OK, TX
Global Range: This system of tallgrass prairies ranges from the Flint Hills (EPA 28a) and portions of the Northern Cross Timbers (EPA 29a) of Kansas and Oklahoma, the Osage Plains (EPA 40b, 40c, 40d) of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, south through the southeastern Springfield Plateau (EPA 39a, 39b? of Arkansas and Missouri, the Arkansas Valley Plains (EPA 37d, 37e) of Arkansas and Oklahoma, south to the "Grand Prairie" or "Fort Worth Prairie" (EPA 29d; where it is the primary natural system) as well as scattered in the rest of the Cross Timbers (EPA 29b. 29c, 29e, 29f, 29g, 29h), ranging south into the Lampasas Cutplain of Texas (EPA 29e).

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
205-Eastern Great Plains C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
32 Crosstimbers and Southern Tallgrass Prairie Confident or certain
36 Central Tallgrass Prairie Confident or certain
37 Osage Plains/Flint Hills Prairie Confident or certain
38 Ozarks Confident or certain
39 Ouachita Mountains Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
32 Southeastern Great Plains Predicted or probable
35 Edwards Plateau Confident or certain
38 Eastern Great Plains Predicted or probable
43 Till Plains Confident or certain
44 Ozark Highlands Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 7136
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1423
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2423

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 28Aug2018
Element Description Author(s): S. Menard, K. Kindscher, M. Pyne, J. Teague, L. Elliott, J. Drake

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


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