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Mississippi Loess Plains Species and Habitats

MISSISSIPPI LOESS PLAINSEcoregion 74 stretches from the Ohio River in western Kentucky all the way to Louisiana. It is characteristically veneered with windblown silt deposits (loess) and underlain by erosion-prone, unconsolidated coastal plain sediments; loess is thicker than in the Southeastern Plains (65). Western areas, including Arkansas, have hills, ridges, and bluffs, but further east in Mississippi and Tennessee, the topography becomes flatter. Overall, irregular plains are common. Ecoregion 74 is lithologically and physiographically distinct from the Ouachita Mountains (36), Boston Mountains (38), Ozark Highlands (39), Interior Plateau (71), and Interior River Valleys and Hills (72). Potential natural vegetation is primarily oak–hickory forest or oak–hickory–pine forest and is unlike the southern floodplain forests of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (73). Streams tend to have gentler gradients and more silty substrates than in the Southeastern Plains (65).

Crowley’s RidgeCrowley’s Ridge, the only portion of the Bluff Hills ecoregion in Arkansas, is a disjunct series of loess-capped hills surrounded by the lower, flatter Mississippi Alluvial Plain (73). Crowley’s Ridge, with elevations of up to 500 feet, is of sufficient height to have trapped wind-blown silt during the Pleistocene Epoch. It was formed by the aggregation of loess and the subsequent erosion by streams. The loess is subject to vertical sloughing when wet. Spring-fed streams and seep areas occur on the lower slopes and in basal areas where Tertiary sands and gravels, that were never removed by the Mississippi River, are exposed. Soils are generally well-drained; they are generally more loamy than those found in the surrounding Northern Pleistocene Valley Trains (73b) and St. Francis Lowlands (73c).

MISSISSIPPI LOESS PLAINSWooded land and pastureland are common; only limited cropland is found in Ecoregion 74a. Post oak–blackjack oak forest, southern red oak–white oak forest, and beech–maple forest occur. Undisturbed ravine vegetation can be rich in mesophytes, such as beech and sugar maple. Oaks still dominate most of these mesophytic communities. The forests of the Bluff Hills (74a) are usually classified as oak–beech. They are related to the beech–maple cove forests of the Appalachian Mountains; like the Appalachian cove forests, tulip poplar dominates early successional communities, at least in the southern ridge. In Arkansas, tulip poplar is native only to the Bluff Hills (74a).

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Content provided by Woods et al. 2004.

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