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Oklahoma Ecological System Mapping

Wichita mountains vegetation complexsandhill shinnerystunted oak woodland
Wichita Mountains Vegetation ComplexSandhill ShinneryMontane Stunted Oak Woodland

State wildlife biologists and other natural resource professionals have recognized the need for accurate current vegetation maps to facilitate conservation planning and management for decades. The Oklahoma Geographic Information Council has pursued avenues to up-date and improve statewide current vegetation maps for at least the five years before this project began. Meanwhile, in Texas, a group led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department launched an effort to develop fine spatial and thematic resolution current vegetation maps for Texas, the Texas Ecological Systems Mapping Project, in the summer of 2007 (Elliott et al. 2014). Results of this effort were reviewed by personnel within the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) in the spring of 2011. Likewise, personnel within the Gulf Coast Prairie and Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) were aware of results coming from the Texas project. The LCCs required seamless current vegetation data across state lines. Thus, the Oklahoma Ecological Systems classification and mapping project was launched in 2012 with initial funding from the ODWC and LCCs, and was finished by the summer of 2015. Funding to collect ground data and assist with classification and mapping was provided to the Oklahoma Biological Survey, University of Oklahoma. Funding to complete remote sensing, mapping, and interpretive information was provided to the Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership (MoRAP), University of Missouri. MoRAP was also the primary partner involved in the Texas Ecological Systems mapping project, and used expertise developed during that project to apply toward the Oklahoma project. Key state cooperators (e.g. representatives within the Oklahoma Geographic Information Council) were brought into the process early on via presentations both at a general meeting and at a land cover technical committee meeting. Groups represented within the Council will be among the primary end users, stewards, and modifiers of the current vegetation data under development.


The Ecological Systems Classification for the US, accessible via the NatureServe Explorer website, served as the basis for classification and mapping. This classification has been modified for Oklahoma and a 69-page document was delivered under separate cover to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The basic classification and mapping methods incorporated remote sensing for land cover (about 15 classes), and overlay of digital soils, %slope, and streams to create the map. A total of 3,709 georeferenced, quantitative data points were gathered in a systematic way, and 1,114 more georeferenced points were gathered to help improve the map. A total of 165 vegetation types were mapped. Summary statistics from points show that three of the most frequent six species in the herbaceous layer were non-native species. Post oak was by far the most common tree encountered. The primary grassland types of Oklahoma together accounted for more than a third of the area of the state, and cropland made up more than 15% of the area. More than half of the mapped types occupy fewer than 10,000 hectares of the state.

Reports & Data


Oklahoma Biological Survey
Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership