Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | January 1, 2019
From Missouri Conservationist: January 2019

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Conservation Planning

Ecological Site Descriptions

Whether you’re a private landowner applying for a cost-share program, a city planner, or a professional natural resources manager, you can benefit from using ecological site descriptions (ESD). These detailed reports can help you improve planning and decision-making for the future.

Doug Wallace, an ecologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Columbia, worked with MDC’s Geographical Information Systems Specialist Alicia Struckhoff and dozens of other natural resource management specialists to develop Missouri’s ecological site classification project.

“This multiagency team effort in Missouri has produced a classification framework that will help drive resource planning and management at a variety of scales, from ecoregion, to landscape, and finally to the farm and field size,” Wallace said. “Now that we’ve completed ESDs for every acre in Missouri, the national effort is underway, and we hope to complete it in fiscal year 2020.”

MDC’s Struckhoff is excited about how ESDs can help anyone doing land management at any scale. Combining information about soils, geology, hydrology, aspect, and natural community history, “ESDs help managers know what their sites can support,” she said. “Was their land historically prairie, woodland, forest, or another type of natural community? The information helps them avoid trying to put trees into prairie soils, for example.”

Wallace agreed. “ESDs help us put the right plants in the right place for the right purpose.” Two online ESD tools anyone can start using now are the Ecosystem Dynamics Interpretive Tool at and NRCS’s Web Soil Survey at

Also In This Issue

Serving Nature and You: Fiscal Year July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler