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Scientific Name: Arkansas Valley Prairie and Woodland
Unique Identifier: CES202.312

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Summary: This system of prairies and associated woodlands is found in the Arkansas River Valley region of Arkansas and adjacent Oklahoma. This region is distinctly bounded by the Boston Mountains to the north and the Ouachita Mountains to the south, although it has been considered part of the Ouachita Ecoregion. 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 bordering or possibly included in the Crosstimbers and Southern Tallgrass Prairie where precipitation and agriculture conversion were lowest.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: There is little floristic and environmental overlap with the Grand Prairie and calcareous prairies of southern Arkansas. There may be stronger overlap with Southeastern Great Plains Tallgrass Prairie (CES205.685), and further review is needed to clarify the distinction between these two systems.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES205.684 Texas Blackland Tallgrass Prairie
CES205.685 Southeastern Great Plains Tallgrass Prairie

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL002024 Andropogon gerardii - Panicum virgatum - Helianthus grosseserratus Wet Meadow
CEGL002075 Quercus stellata - Quercus marilandica - Carya (glabra, texana) / Vaccinium arboreum Forest
CEGL002149 Quercus stellata - Quercus marilandica - Quercus velutina - Carya texana / Schizachyrium scoparium Woodland
CEGL002150 Quercus alba - Quercus stellata - Quercus velutina / Schizachyrium scoparium Woodland
CEGL002204 Andropogon gerardii - Sorghastrum nutans Unglaciated Grassland
CEGL002393 Pinus echinata - Quercus stellata - Quercus marilandica / Schizachyrium scoparium Woodland
CEGL002394 Pinus echinata - Quercus alba / Schizachyrium scoparium Woodland
CEGL004782 Juncus (acuminatus, brachycarpus) - Panicum virgatum - Bidens aristosa - Hibiscus lasiocarpos Wet Meadow
CEGL007815 Pinus echinata / Schizachyrium scoparium - Solidago ulmifolia - Monarda russeliana - Echinacea pallida Woodland
CEGL007827 Schizachyrium scoparium - Dichanthelium spp. - Buchnera americana - Echinacea pallida Grassland
CEGL008564 Schizachyrium scoparium - Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana - Croton michauxii var. ellipticus Grassland


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

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Calopogon oklahomensis
  (Oklahoma Grass-pink)

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Quercus stellata G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Echinacea pallida G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Liatris squarrosa var. hirsuta T4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Silphium laciniatum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Andropogon gerardii G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Carex oklahomensis G4 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-
Aspidoscelis sexlineata
  (Six-lined Racerunner)
Coluber constrictor
  (North American Racer)
Sigmodon hispidus
  (Hispid Cotton Rat)

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AR, OK
Global Range: This system occurs in the Arkansas River Valley region of Arkansas and adjacent Oklahoma.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
202-Central Interior and Appalachian C: Confident or certain
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
39 Ouachita Mountains Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
44 Ozark Highlands Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 7128
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1415
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2415

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Element Description Edition Date: 14Jan2014
Element Description Author(s): T. Foti, R. Evans, T. Witsell and M. Pyne

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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  • DeSelm, H. R., and N. Murdock. 1993. Grass-dominated communities. Pages 87-141 in: W. H. Martin, S. G. Boyce, and A. C. Echternacht, editors. Biodiversity of the southeastern United States: Upland terrestrial communities. John Wiley and Sons, New York.

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  • Estes, J., R. Tyrl, and J. Brunken, editors. 1979. Grasses and grasslands: Systematics and ecology. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

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  • Foti, Tom. Personal communication. Ecologist [retired]. Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Little Rock.

  • Landfire [Landfire National Vegetation Dynamics Database]. 2007a. Landfire National Vegetation Dynamics Models. Landfire Project, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Department of Interior. (January - last update) [] (accessed 8 February 2007).

  • McKinney, M. L., and J. L. Lockwood. 1999. Biotic homogenization: A few winners replacing many losers in the next mass extinction. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 14: 450-453.

  • Murdock, Nora. No. date. U.S. National Park Service, Appalachian Highlands Network, Ashville, NC.

  • Noss, R. F. 2013. Forgotten grasslands of the South: Natural history and conservation. Island Press, Washington, DC. 317 pp.

  • TNC [The Nature Conservancy]. 1996c. Portfolio assessment and conservation plan for calcareous glades of the Interior Low Plateau (working draft of August 1996). Calcareous Glades Conservation Team, The Nature Conservancy, Chapel Hill, NC. 28 pp.

  • Taft, J. B. 1997a. Savanna and open-woodland communities. Pages 24-54 in: M. W. Schwartz, editor. Conservation in highly fragmented landscapes. Chapman and Hall, New York. 436 pp.

  • Taft, J. B. 2009. Effects of overstory stand density and fire on ground layer vegetation in oak woodland and savanna habitats. In: T. F. Hutchinson, editor. Proceedings of the 3rd Fire in Eastern Oak Forests Conference. 2008 May 20-22. Carbondale, IL. General Technical Report NRS-P-46. USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Newtown Square, PA.

  • Taft, J. B., M. W. Schwartz, and L. R. Phillippe. 1995. Vegetation ecology of flatwoods on the Illinoian till plain. Journal of Vegetation Science 6:647-666.

  • Wiens, J. A., and M. I. Dyer. 1975. Rangeland avifaunas: Their composition, energetics and role in the ecosystem. Pages 146 182 in: D. R. Smith, technical coordinator. Proceedings of the Symposium on Management of Forest and Range Habitats for Nongame Birds. 1975 May 6-9. Tucson, AZ. General Technical Report WO-1. USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC.

  • Witsell, Theo. Personal communication. Botanist, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, 1500 Tower Building, 323 Center Street, Little Rock, AR 72201. 501.324.9615 []

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