The East Central Texas Forests (hereafter ECTF) ecoregion is located entirely within the state of Texas and comprises one of the smallest ecoregions within the Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests biome. The potential natural vegetation of the ECTF is oak-hickory forest, the cross timbers association of oaks and little bluestem, and juniper-oak savannas. Common hardwoods of the oak-hickory association include scarlet, post, and blackjack oaks (Quercus coccinea, Q.stellata, and Q. marilandica, respectively), and pignut and mockernut hickories (Careya glabra and C. tomentosa). Forests of elm (Ulmus americana), pecan (Carya illinoensis), and walnut (Juglans regia) occur along river courses. The ecoregion is distinguished from adjacent prairie units and the coastal plain grasslands by higher tree density and from the Piney Woods forests by the more open nature of the habitat and the greater dominance of hardwoods. Fire and drought were historically principle disturbance factors.
The ECTF are characterized by species associated with temperate, subhumid forests. Jaguar (Panthera onca) and bison (Bison bison) both occurred in the ecoregion previously. The ECTF are notably rich in butterflies and reptiles.
Like some of the surrounding habitat, this ecoregion is being heavily altered through both ranching and farming practices. Approximately 75 percent of the natural vegetation of this ecoregion has been converted to agriculture.
Remaining Blocks of Intact Habitat
There are no large portions of intact habitat left for this ecoregion. A majority of the remaining habitat exists in small blocks of 100-200 acres, and the quality of habitat in these blocks is quite variable.
Degree of Fragmentation
The original habitat is highly fragmented, and while the original floral component of the ecoregion still exists, the fragmented nature of the ecoregion has severly limited the flow of natural ecological processes.
Degree of Protection
There are no national forests located in this ecoregion, and similarly the level of protection is extremely minimal. The only partially protected piece of land, outside of state parks, is the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.
Types and Severity of Threats
The major threats to the ecoregion are the conversion of forests to agriculture. In addition, the suppression of fire in the remaining blocks of habitat may threaten their biological integrity in the future.
Suite of Priority Activities to Enhance Biodiversity Conservation
•Work to protect the remaining blocks of intact habitat
•Attempt to identify potential parcels of land for restoration
•Work to gain greater awareness of living resources withing the communities
•The Nature Conservancy of Texas
Relationship to other classification schemes
The boundaries of the East Central Texas Forests are taken from Omernik (1995) ecoregion no. 33 (East Central Texas Plains). Both our classification and Omernik's unit are derived from Küchler (1985) unit no. 91 (Oak-Hickory forest). The unit is similar in location and shape to Bailey et al.’s (1994) subregion no. 255C (Oak Woods and Prairie section). Fire and drought were historically principle disturbance factors.
Prepared by: C. Loucks