Table Lu03: Land Type Associations within the Big Piney Watershed
Table Lu03: Land Type Associations within the Big Piney Watershed
Descriptions of land type association (LTAs) groups as well as a condensed description of the 11 LTAs (underlined in bold with percentage of watershed in parenthesis) within the Big Piney Watershed. Descriptions and figures taken in part or whole from MDC (1997a, 1998b, and 1998c).
Pine-Oak Woodland Dissected Plains
Broad, flat to gently rolling plains which give way to moderately dissected and sloping lands associated with the headwaters of major drainages. Valleys are broad and local relief 100-150 feet. Clusters of karst sinkholes are common. Streams are mainly headwater streams with flashy, intermittent flow.
Underlain by cherty sandstone and dolomite of the Roubidoux Formation with frequent loess deposits on the flatter uplands.
Soils are formed principally in cherty sandstone and dolomite residuum from the Roubidoux Formation. Soils are mainly deep, cherty, and highly weathered, low base soils. However occasional fragipans and shallow to bedrock soils do occur. Most soils are extremely well drained and droughty.
Originally covered in woodlands of shortleaf pine and mixed pine oak with an open understory of dense grass and shrub ground cover. Post oak woodlands occupied occasional loess covered flats. Unique sinkhole ponds dotted the landscape.
Over 75% of this group are currently forested in dense, even-age oak and oak-pine forest. Only 20% of these forests have a strong pine component. However, the proportion of forests containing shortleaf pine is the highest in this group. Dense stands of near even age scarlet, black, and post oak occur in the place of pine. Understories are dense, woodland ground flora sparse, and oak die-back common. A substantial component of these forested lands are publicly owned. Approximately 20% of this group is currently pasture, which often occupies the broad valley bottoms or karst plains. Most sinkhole ponds have been drained, dozed or severely overgrazed. Headwater streams are subject to grazing and bank erosion.
Big Piney Pine-Oak Woodland Dissected Plain (4.0%)
Flat to rolling landscape flanking the hills on either side of the Upper Big Piney river; high current pine component.
Oak Woodland Dissected Plains and Hills Group
Distinguished by rolling to moderately dissected topography. Local relief is 75-150 feet. Very broad, flat ridges give way to gentle side slopes and broad stream valleys. Karst plains with frequent shallow sinkhole depressions are common. Broad stream valleys most often occupied by losing streams, however occasional seeps do occur and can spread across substantial portions of a valley.
Commonly underlain by Jefferson City-Cotter dolomites with a common loess cap. Some minor areas underlain by Roubidoux sandtones.
Soils are variable, ranging from shallow to bedrock and fragipan soils, to deep, cherty and well-drained loams. Tree root growth is often restricted by bedrock, pans or clay mineralogy, especially high in the landscape.
Open woodlands with occasional prairie and savanna openings was the principal vegetation type. Post oak and black oak were the principal woodland tree species. Historic fire likely played an important role in maintaining an open canopy, sparse understory and a dense herbaceous ground flora. More dissected lands likely contained mixed oak woodland and forest. Unique sinkhole ponds, wet prairies and seeps were scattered in the broad valleys and depressions.
Currently a mosaic of fescue pasture (35-65% cover) and dense, often grazed oak forest. The transition from open grassland to closed forest is abrupt and the patch work blocky. Very few native grasslands or savannas are known, and the dense second growth woodlands have very little ground flora. Most sinkoles, wet prairies and seeps have been drained and heavily grazed. Many roads, towns, cities and businesses are located in these LTAs.
Little Piney Oak Woodland Dissected Plain (13.4%)
Dissected plains associated with the headwaters of the Little Piney river and Spring creek; Roubidoux sandstone locally common. Big Piney Hills Oak Woodland Dissected Plain (4.4%) Narrow divide between Roubidoux Creek. and Big Piney R. within Gasconade Hills Subs. Big Piney River Oak Woodland Dissected Plain (5.8%) Rather small dissected upland at head of Spring Creek. Upper Gasconade Oak Woodland Dissected Plain (37.7%) Broad divide encompassing the headwaters of the Big Piney and Gasconade River Watersheds.
Oak Savanna/Woodland Plains Group
Very broad flat uplands slope gently to very broad flat drains or solution (karst) depressions. Local relief is less than 75 feet.
Underlain mainly by Jefferson City-Cotter dolomites with a common loess cap. Minor areas of the Roubidoux formation occur. Headwater streams are nearly all losing.
Fragipan soils or soils with shallow restrictive clays or bedrock are common, inhibiting tree root growth.
Oak savannas and woodlands with common prairie openings were the predominant historic vegetation. While few prairies were named by original land surveyors, early descriptions portray an open, ?oak prairie? landscape. Fire likely played a principal role in maintaining a grassland-open woodland structure. Some sinkhole depressions would have had unique ponds and seeps.
The largest blocks and greatest acres of grassland (45-65% cover) are currently associated with these LTAs; grasslands are mainly fescue pasture. Less than 40% of these LTAs are timbered, mainly in dense, second growth oak forest (post and black oaks) with common grazing pressure. Very few quality native prairies, savannas, woodlands, sinkhole ponds or seeps are known. Many of the regions roads, towns, and businesses are associated with these LTAs.
Licking Oak Savanna/Woodland Plain (6.4%)
Long, linear flat divide between Big Piney on the west and Current/ Meramec drainages on the east. Ft. Wood Oak Savanna/Woodland Plain (0.7%) Small, flat upland between Big Piney and Roubidoux creek. Cabool-Mt. Grove Oak Savanna/Woodland Plains (0.4%) Two narrow, high, flat divides between Gasconade and North Fork drainages.
Ozark Oak Forest Breaks
These LTAs are distinguished by local relief over 300 feet, narrow ridges, steep sideslopes and mainly narrow, sinuous valleys. Cliffs, caves and springs are common. These LTAs represent the most rugged and certainly some of the most scenic landscapes in the region.
The Current and Meramec Breaks differ from the Gasconade by having only a thin layer of Roubidox sandstone on the highest ridges, but cut deeply through the Gasconade formation into the Eminence dolomite, consequently exposing the Gunter sandstone. Consequently, unique benches occur on the Gunter sandstone, and extensive areas of more productive, higher base soils with oak and mixed hardwood forest communities occur here. The breaks along the Gasconade have a thick cap of Roubidoux sandstone on ridges and upper slopes, give way abruptly from the Plains, and only cut into the Lower Gasconade dolomite.
Areas of shallow soils are frequent with deeper cherty loam soils above and below them.
Historic accounts indicate that these LTAs were originally forested in Oak and Mixed Hardwood Forest Types. Scattered glades and open woodlands would have occurred on exposed slopes and ridges, especially in areas of shallow soil. Relatively small fen openings occasionally filled narrow tributary valleys.
Because of the steep topography, these LTAs are still mainly forested (65-85%) in second growth oak and mixed hardwood timber. Open areas are confined to valleys, and bottomland forest is in shorter supply than historically. Dolomite glades are largely overgrown with eastern red cedar, and many of the fens have been drained or heavily grazed. Numerous rare or endangered species, some restricted to these LTAs, are associated with the streams, springs, caves, cliffs and fens in these landscapes. The rivers have been recognized as natural treasures and are an important recreational resource to the entire region.
Middle Gasconade River Oak Woodland/Forest Breaks (13.4%)
Very steep lands in middle of valley with abrupt fall from adjacent Plains; Roubidox sandstone ridges/upper slopes and Gasconade sideslopes/valley bottom.
Oak-Pine Woodland Forest Hills Group
Mainly broad ridges, moderately sloping (<25%) side slopes, and relatively broad entrenched valleys with local relief between 150-250 feet. Steeper, more dissected areas occur locally near larger stream valleys. Sinkhole depressions are common on broader ridges. Stream valleys vary somewhat from broad and rather shallow, to more deeply entrenched, narrow, and meandering. Many losing streams occur in valleys distant from the main rivers. Cliffs, caves and springs are commonly associated with larger, perennial stream valleys.
Roubidoux cherty sandstones and dolomites occupy most ridges and upper side slopes, while lower side slopes, especially near major streams are in cherty upper Gasconade dolomite materials.
Soils are mainly deep, highly weathered and very cherty silt loams with clays at varying depth. Broad ridges may have a loess cap with occasional fragipans, and shallow soils with dolomite bedrock near the surface occur frequently on steeper, exposed slopes.
Pine and mixed oak-pine woodland originally dominated the more gently sloping upland surface associated with the Roubidoux Formation. Early descriptions portray an open, grassy and shrubby understory in these woodlands, a condition related to the prevalence of fire in the historic landscape. Oak and oak-pine forest occupied lower slopes and more dissected, hilly parts of these landscapes, as well as the wider and more well-drained bottom. Bottoms with richer alluvial soils and more abundant water likely were forested in mixed hardwood timber. Dolomite glade and open savanna/woodland complexes were common on exposed slopes with shallow soils. Sinkhole ponds and fens were dotted occasionally throughout.
Mainly forested in second growth oak and oak-pine forests; forest cover ranges from sixty to over 80%. Most forests are rather dense, near even-age second growth, with very little woodland ground flora. The occurrence of shortleaf pine in these forests has diminished from its original extent, today having only 20-30% of the forest cover containing a substantial component (>25%) of pine. Even age stands dominated by scarlet, black, and white oak are common, oak die back is a common problem. Much of the existing timber land is associated with public land ownership. Cleared pasture lands occupy many of the broad stream valleys and highest, flattest ridges. Many glades and woodlands suffer from woody encroachment, and sinkhole ponds and fens have been drained or severely overgrazed. An exceptional proportion of state-listed species sites are associated with the streams, springs, caves, cliffs, fens, and sinkhole ponds in this group.
Big Piney River Oak-Pine Woodland/Forest Hills (18.7%)
Includes most of upper valley; exceptional pine component and cleared bottoms. North Fork River Oak-Pine Woodland/Forest Hills (0.1%) Includes most of valley; exceptional pine component and USFS ownership.