Project Tour - A quick visit to the Ozarks Stream
During the last 100 years, stream channels in the Ozarks have become wider and
shallower and deepwater fish habitat has been lost. Recreational fishing and
ecosystem preservation are important to the economy of the Ozarks, and degradation of
aquatic habitat is of concern to Federal, State, and local land managers. This project is
a multidisciplinary study to determine cause-and-effect links between historical land-use
changes, climatic shifts, and the quality and stability of stream habitat.
This project emphasizes geomorphology because of the interconnection between stream
processes and aquatic communities. The structure of a stream is the template for its
community it provides the network of habitats that determine the type and numbers
of organisms. Stream structure is, in turn, controlled by stream processes that govern how
sediment and water are transported through the stream system. Changes such as a decrease
in rainfall or a shift from forestry to grazing can affect a stream's balance of sediment
and water, thereby affecting the network of habitats it provides.
Primary Research Questions
As the value placed in the natural resources of the region grows, people have begun to
ask specific questions about the way Ozarks streams function and the biological impact of
historical and future changes in land-use and climatic conditions. The principal questions
that initiated this project were:
- How have past land-use practices affected Ozark streams?
- On what time frame will streams recover from past disturbances?
- What habitat conditions do stream communities need to prosper?
- How are habitats affected by stream processes such as flooding and gravel transport?
- Are Ozarks streams sensitive to future climate and land-use changes?
The Ozarks Stream Geomorphology Project (OSGP)
is a project of the Biological Resources Division
(BRD) of the U.S. Geological Survey. The BRD mission is to work with others
to provide the scientific understanding and technologies needed to support the sound
management and conservation of our Nation's biological resources. The BRD is a
non-regulatory, non-managerial, and non-advocacy science agency. Our aim is to make
the best possible scientific information available to resource managers, landowners, and
the public. You can learn more about the BRD by visiting our main web page or by reading the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.
Funding for geomorphology research in the Ozarks has come through two programs of the U.S. Geological Survey. From 1992-1998 the
OSGP was funded in part through the Global Change
Research Program which sponsors research that helps anticipate and mitigate
environmental reponses to stresses such as climate change. In 1999 funding was
provided through the U.S. Geological Survey's Natural Resources Preservation
Program. This program is designed to provide timely, park-oriented, scientific
information that will assist park managers in their management decisions. Additional
support and funding for Ozarks stream research has also been provided by the USGS
Federal-State Cooperative Program, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the National
Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
|The Ozark Highlands is a rugged, montane region made up of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. Over thousands of years,
groundwater has dissolved soluble portions of these rocks and formed karst topography, a rugged landscape with an
underground waterway of caves and springs. Springflow from this network feeds clear-water
streams that host over 112 species of fish, 196 species of birds, and 58 species of
mammals. Local geology influences the physical characteristics of the streams they
are lined by bluffs and extensive gravel bars made of chert,
a resistant quartz rock that is eroded from surrounding hillsides.
Ozarks Land-Use History
Humans have lived in the basin for at least 12,000 years; early inhabitants lived as
hunters and gatherers in caves and in small villages on river terraces. Europeans
introduced agriculture when they began to settle the Central Ozarks around 1800. Early
settlers cleared valley bottoms for pasture and row crops and began to cut timber from
valley slopes. Construction of railroads into the area in the 1870s led to a timber boom
and a surge in population between 1880 and 1920. Commercial timber companies harvested
shortleaf pine for sawlogs and oak for railroad ties. After the timber boom (1920-1960),
Ozark residents returned to agriculture, instituting annual burning of uplands and
increasing grazing on open ranges.
Ozarks Land-Use Today
Today, the Ozarks are highly valued for mineral, timber, agricultural, and recreational
resources. Although cultivated fields have decreased since 1960, cattle populations
and timber operations are increasing. Tourism has also become an important economic
activity. Each year over 1.5 million people visit The Ozark National Scenic
Riverways and the Buffalo National River to canoe, fish, camp on gravel bars, and enjoy
the beauty of the steep-sided hollows, bluffs, and clear-water streams.
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