Extreme Makeover: The Effect of Time and People, Part 4

Published on: May. 27, 2010

Another agricultural advancement that has subtly changed the landscape is the continual leveling of fields. By nature, wetlands are relatively flat, and it might not seem that “leveling” these areas would be a big deal. However, a few inches can have a dramatic effect on the plants and animals that might exist. Water and earthquakes over thousands of years have shifted, sorted and shook the floodplain sediments to create a variety of topographic features to form the high and low parts of the Bootheel’s subtle surface. The juxtaposition of these features and the variety of vegetation communities associated with these various wetness gradients provided a tremendous amount of plant and animal diversity in close proximity of one another.

image of microtopography

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Aerial photography and lidar can give us an idea of the slight yet dramatic change that has occurred in the last 60 years as equipment and technology have allowed us to become more efficient at reshaping the land. For example, mima mounds are unique topographic features probably created by the vibrations of earthquakes causing the loose floodplain soils to “bubble up.” These “bumps” are typically 10 yards across and can be 2 to 3 feet in height. They have a very distinct signature on aerial photographs and lidar. The only locations that they can currently be found is in forested areas like Thompson’s Ridge. However, they used to be present in Unit A and Unit B. Grading of fields on and off Duck Creek have erased these unique features and created tilted planes. Reshaping the land in this way works well to promote monocultures and minimize variation. By minimizing variation, you’ve altered the diversity that once made the Bootheel the Swampeast.

image of Unit B

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