Home Archived April 27, 2017

Ozark Partnership


  Ozarks Environmental Setting  


Cultural Resources

photo of Falling Spring Mill, MO
Falling Spring Mill, MO

Ozark landscapes and rich biological diversity are inextricably linked to the local culture and much of the economic activity in the Ozarks. Traditional Ozark music, crafts, and knowledge of herbal medicine are passed from generation to generation. Forestry and other agricultural activities employ significant portions of Ozark residents. Hunting, fishing, canoeing, hiking, and other outdoor recreation opportunities draw millions of visitors to the Ozarks each year. The continued success of these activities and the communities that depend on them is in turn dependent on the quality of Ozark natural resources.

Ozark Folk Center
Arkansas State Park

Ozark Studies Institute
Missouri State University



The Ozark Environment: A National Treasure

map showing Ozark region boundary

The Ozarks include much of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas and small portions of Illinois, Kansas and Oklahoma.  The area consists of the Ozark Highlands to the north and the Boston Mountains to the south.  The Boston Mountains are the highest and most rugged portion of the Ozarks.  A quarter billion years of years of erosion and weathering have resulted in a thoroughly dissected plateau with landforms ranging from rolling plains to deeply dissected hills and valleys.  Subterranean dissolution of carbonate bedrock has resulted in dominant karst features with many streams losing water to underground passages and others fed by springs and seepage, often from areas beyond the surface watershed.

The Ozarks are one of the oldest continually exposed landscapes on earth. The high, gently rolling plains once supported prairies, savannahs and open woodlands; the dissected hills and valleys supported oak and oak-pine woodlands and forest interspersed with glades, fens, springs, caves and cliffs harboring many unique species. Plants and animals have had over 200 million years to adapt to the rugged landscape or take refuge from continental climate change.  Geographic isolation, topographic relief, and karst geology have resulted in remarkable biodiversity in the Ozarks. Over 200 species are largely restricted to the Ozarks, of which approximately 160 species occur nowhere else in the world.  More than 100 fish species live in Ozarks streams, including 56 species and subspecies that are restricted to, or have very limited distribution outside of the Ozarks.  Overall, the Ozarks provide habitat for nearly two-thirds of the threatened and endangered species in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois.

Ozark Land Cover Map


Species of Concern


Ozark Ecosystems

Ozarks Ecoregional Conservation Assessment, The Nature Conservancy

Ozark Geology

Ozark Water

USGS NAWQA Ozark Plateaus Study Unit - Environmental and Hydrologic Setting Overview

January-Stansberry Cave, OK Credit:Richard Stark/USFWS

January-Stansberry Cave is on the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. This cave is home to about 20,000 endangered gray bats (Myotis grisescens), the state-listed Oklahoma cave crayfish (Cambarus tartarus), and has records of the threatened Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae).

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Page Contact Information: Esther Stroh, USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center
Page Last Modified: Monday, 30-Dec-2013 12:32:49 EST
URL: http://ozarks.cr.usgs.gov/ozark_environment.htm