Central Prairie




Text modified from Abell et al. 2000. Freshwater Ecoregions of North America: A Conservation Assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA. Additional text provided by Jennifer Hales.


United States

Major Habitat Type

Temperate upland rivers

Drainages flowing into

The Missouri River is the largest tributary of the Mississippi River. This ecoregion drains the basins of the lower Missouri towards its confluence with the Mississippi River near St. Louis, MO (Robison 1986).

Main rivers to other water bodies

This ecoregion is defined by the watersheds of several rivers, including the upper portion of the Arkansas River and its tributary the Neosho River, and the lower Missouri River and its tributary the Osage River.



This ecoregion includes central and southwestern Missouri, southeastern Kansas, northwestern Oklahoma, and a portion of northwestern Arkansas.


The ecoregion includes two notable landforms that include the gently sloping Flint Hills in the western portion of the ecoregion and the Osage Plains, characterized as a series of parallel escarpments separated by rolling plains. Elevations in the Flint Hills range between 90-150 m (TNC-OPFHPEPT 2000).

Freshwater habitats

Most of the streams and rivers in the ecoregion are meandering with low to moderate flow (McNab & Avers 1994).

Terrestrial habitats

Tallgrass praire is dominant in the western section of the ecorgegion in the area of the Flint Hills, and grades to oak-hickory communities as one moves eastward (Ricketts et al. 1999).

Description of endemic fishes

The Central Prairie ecoregion is characterized by relatively low endemism of aquatic species. Fish species include the Niangua darter (Etheostoma nianguae), the bluestripe darter (Percina cymatotaenia), and the Missouri saddled darter (Etheostoma tetrazonum), all endemic to the Osage and Gasconade watersheds. Also endemic is the Neosho madtom (Noturus placidus) in the middle Arkansas River (Cross et al. 1986).

Other noteworthy fishes

One species of interest is the Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae), a federally endangered species. The fish’s range is limited to a small area where Arkansas and Oklahoma meet. It prefers caves where bat colonies exist, such as Cave Springs Cave, where the endangered gray bat (Myotis grisescens) breeds (The Nature Conservancy 1996).

Justification for delineation

Ecoregion boundaries are taken from Abell et al. (2000) and are based on subregions defined by Maxwell et al. (1995).


  • McNab, W. H. and Avers, P. E. (1994) \Ecological subregions of the United States\ U.S. Forest Service, ECOMAP Team, WO-WSA-5. Online. http://www.fs.fed.us/land/pubs/ecoregions/index.html..
  • McDonald, S. (1996). "Crayfish"
  • Ricketts, T. H.,E. Dinerstein,D.M Olson;C.J. Loucks (1999). "Terrestrial ecoregions of North America: A conservation assessment" Washington, D.C.: World Wildlife Fund.
  • Robison, H. W. (1986). "Zoogeographic implications of the Mississippi River Basin" C. H. Hocutt and E. O. Wiley (Ed.) The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes ( pp. 267-285 ) New York, New York, USA: Wiley.
  • The Nature Conservancy (1996). "Troubled waters: Protecting our aquatic heritage" Arlington, Virginia, USA: Conservation Science.
  • Abell, R.,Olson, D.,Dinerstein, E.,Hurley, P. T.,Diggs, J. T.,Eichbaum, W.,Walters, S.,Wettengel, W.,Allnutt, T.,Loucks, C. J.;Hedao, P. (2000). "Freshwater ecoregions of North America" Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
  • Maxwell, J. R., Edwards, C. J., Jensen, M. E., et al. (1995) \A hierarchical framework of aquatic ecological units in North America (Nearctic Zone)\ St. Paul, MN. North Central Forest Experiment Station, USDA Forest Service.
  • Cross, F. B., R.L. Mayden and J.D. Stewart (1986). "Fishes in the western Mississippi drainage" C. H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley (Ed.) The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes ( pp. 363-412 ) New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
  • The Nature Conservancy - Osage Plains/Flint Hills Prairie Ecoregional Planning Team (2000) \Ecoregional Conservation in the Osage Plains/Flint Hills Prairie\ Minneapolis, MN. The Nature Conservancy, Midwestern Resource Office.