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Published on: Aug. 29, 2011

University students and professors use the information about aquatic communities to advance our understanding of connections between Missouri’s land and water resources. Missouri has contributed RAM Program data to federal agencies and national conservation organizations to help them assess the health of the nation’s waters and prioritize their national aquatic conservation efforts.

The Resource Assessment and Monitoring Program’s most important partners are Missouri’s citizens. Citizen concern about Missouri’s aquatic resources provides the reason and support for the RAM Program. The vast majority of wadeable streams in Missouri flow through private lands, and we thank the many landowners who have granted us permission to access their streams. Without access, we would never be able to do our stream health checkups!

Animal Life Regions

The Ozark Faunal Region (faunal refers to animal life) occupies the Ozarks of Missouri, an area found mostly south of the Missouri River. The Ozarks is a hilly area of thin, stony soil over granite, sandstone or limestone bedrock. Much of the area is forested. Ozark streams are generally clear, cool and have gravel bottoms. Submerged vegetation is often found in backwaters and side channels. Sixty-seven species of fishes have their range centered in the Ozark Faunal Region, and 20 of these species are found nowhere else in the world. Suckers, sunfishes, minnows and darters are the dominant groups of fishes found in Ozark streams.

The Prairie Faunal Region is found north and west of the Ozark Faunal Region and lies mostly north of the Missouri River. The Prairie is a flat or gently rolling area of deep soils. Most of the region was once prairie, but much is now row crop agriculture. Prairie streams tend to be turbid and have sand or silt bottoms, but many Prairie streams in west-central and northeast Missouri have gravel bottoms. Eighteen fish species have their range centered in the Prairie. Carpsuckers, suckers and minnows are the dominant groups of fishes in Prairie streams.

The Lowland Faunal Region lies in southeast Missouri, south of the Ozarks. The lowlands are a flat alluvial plain once covered by swamps and forests. The Lowlands have been extensively ditched for drainage and converted to row crop agriculture. Most of the aquatic habitat left in the Lowlands is ditches rather than streams. Ditches generally have soft bottoms, lots of vegetation, and may be turbid or clear. Twenty-three Missouri fish species have their ranges centered in the Lowlands. Minnow and darters are common in the Lowlands, but no groups of fishes really dominate lowland communities.

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