Ecological site R080BY154TX
Low Stony Hill 26-33" PZ
Last updated: 10/10/2018
Provisional. A provisional ecological site description has undergone quality control and quality assurance review. It contains a working state and transition model and enough information to identify the ecological site.
Figure 1. Mapped extent
Areas shown in blue indicate the maximum mapped extent of this ecological site. Other ecological sites likely occur within the highlighted areas. It is also possible for this ecological site to occur outside of highlighted areas if detailed soil survey has not been completed or recently updated.
Major Land Resource Area (MLRA): 080B–Texas North-Central Prairies
MLRA 80B consists of gently rolling, dissected plains with very steep hillsides and sideslopes and narrow flood plains associated with small streams. Loamy and clayey soils range from very shallow to deep and developed in sandstones, shales, and limestones of Pennsylvanian age.
This ecological site is correlated to soil components at the Major Land Resource Area (MLRA) level which is further described in USDA Ag Handbook 296.
Ecological site concept
These sites occur over shallow stony clay loam soils on uplands. Reference vegetation includes native perennial tall and midgrasses with numerous forbs and scattered oaks. While the soils are shallow, plant roots can often penetrate cracks in the limestone rock. Without periodic fire or brush management, woody species may increase and dominate the site.
Clay Loam 26-33" PZ
Clay Loam site frequently occurs adjacent to the Low stony Hills site in a lower position on the landscape
Redland 26-33" PZ
The Redland site frequently occurs adjacent to the Low Stony Hill site on ridgetops
Steep Rocky 26-33" PZ
The Steep Rocky site is immediately adjacent and upslope of the Low Stony Hill site
Redland 26-33" PZ
Similar species, but higher production because of deeper soils
Low Stony Hill 23-31 PZ
Similar species and production in MLRA adjacent to southern counties
LOW STONY HILL 25-28" PZ
Similar species, but slightly lower production in MLRA adjacent to western counties
Shallow 26-33" PZ
Similar production and similar herbaceous species, but fewer trees and shrubs
Steep Rocky 26-33" PZ
This site is immediately adjacent and upslope of the Low Stony Hill site. It has similar species but somewhat lower production because of shallower soils and steeper slopes.
Table 1. Dominant plant species
(1) Quercus fusiformis
(1) Schizachyrium scoparium
This site occurs on linear to convex interfluves and crests of dip slopes and ridges in the Texas North-Central Prairies. This site is characteristically a water distributing site.
Table 2. Representative physiographic features
(2) Dip slope
|Runoff class||Medium to high|
|Elevation||750 – 2,400 ft|
|Slope||1 – 8%|
|Aspect||Aspect is not a significant factor|
The climate is subtropical subhumid and is characterized by hot humid summers and relatively mild winters. Tropical maritime air controls the climate during spring, summer and fall. In winter and early spring, frequent surges of polar Canadian air cause sudden drops in temperatures and add considerable variety to the daily weather. The average first frost generally occurs about November 5 and the last freeze of the season usually occurs about March 19. The average frost free period ranges from 215 days in the northern counties, to 240 days in the south.
The average relative humidity in mid-afternoon is about 60 percent in the summer months. Humidity is higher at night, and the average at dawn is about 80 percent. The sun shines 75 percent of the time possible during the summer and 50 percent in winter. The prevailing wind direction is from the southwest and highest windspeeds occur during the spring months.
Approximately 75% of annual rainfall occurs between April 1 and October 31. Rainfall during the months of April through September typically occurs during thunderstorms which tend to be intense and brief, resulting in large amounts of rain in a short time. The wettest months of the year are May, June, September, and October. The driest months during the growing season are July and August. The winter months of November, December, January, and February are the driest months overall.
Average annual precipitation for the entire MLRA is approximately 28 inches. There is a noticeable difference in the average annual precipitation in the northern counties in comparison to the southern and western counties of this Major Land Resource Area. Jack, Clay, Young, and Palo Pinto Counties all have an average annual precipitation of more than 31 inches. Stephens, Eastland, McCulloch, and San Saba Counties all have an average annual precipitation of less than 28 inches.
Winters tend to be mild, with occasional periods of very cold temperatures which can be accompanied by strong northerly winds and freezing precipitation. Snow is infrequent and significant accumulations are rare. These periods of very cold weather are generally short-lived. Summers tend to be hot and dry. Drought conditions are common during most summers. Air temperatures of more than 95oF are common from mid-June through September. In the northern counties nearest to the Red River, temperatures are generally slightly cooler during winter months and slightly warmer during summer months than in the other counties in the North Central Prairie.
Table 3. Representative climatic features
|Frost-free period (average)||240 days|
|Freeze-free period (average)||268 days|
|Precipitation total (average)||33 in|
Figure 2. Monthly precipitation range
Figure 3. Monthly average minimum and maximum temperature
Influencing water features
These sites often shed water to adjacent areas downslope via runoff. However, the presence of good ground cover and deep rooted plants can help facilitate rainwater infiltration into the soil profile.
Representative soil components for this ecological site include: Palopinto
The site is characterized by shallow, rubbly, well drained soils.
Table 4. Representative soil features
(1) Very stony loam
(2) Very stony clay loam
|Drainage class||Well drained|
|Permeability class||Moderately slow|
|Soil depth||6 – 20 in|
|Surface fragment cover <=3"||5%|
|Surface fragment cover >3"||15 – 50%|
|Available water capacity
|1 – 2 in|
|Calcium carbonate equivalent
|Sodium adsorption ratio
|Soil reaction (1:1 water)
|6.6 – 8.4|
|Subsurface fragment volume <=3"
(Depth not specified)
|Subsurface fragment volume >3"
(Depth not specified)
The reference plant community for the Low Stony Hill ecological site is a live oak savanna with large areas of open grassland dominated by tallgrasses with an abundant variety of forbs as well as a significant presence of trees and shrubs. Numerous mottes of oaks, elms, and hackberry, as well as several other species of trees and shrubs are distributed throughout the site to create a diverse mosaic of grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees. Evidence of the historic vegetation can be found in the journals and records of explorers, military expeditions, and boundary survey teams.
Climate is a major factor influencing vegetation on the site. Long-term droughts lasting multiple years or growing seasons are infrequent, but when they do occur, they can have a negative impact on the vegetation. Because of the relatively shallow and stony characteristics of the soil, this site often shows signs of drought earlier than adjacent sites with deeper soils. Those same characteristics enable this site to respond quickly when rainfall does occur. The effects of erratic seasonal moisture and short-term dry spells lasting a few months are not as severe as those caused by long-term droughts. However, the lower the ecological status of the site, the greater the negative impact will be during drought periods regardless of duration.Abusive grazing during or immediately following the drought period can have disastrous consequences. The extended drought of the 1950’s was especially devastating on the Low Stony Hill site. Grass production on this and other sites was significantly reduced for five to seven consecutive years, but livestock numbers were not adjusted accordingly. The result was severe overgrazing that caused long-term, and often permanent, adverse changes to the plant community on this site. Many of these areas have not recovered, and may never recover, from the impacts of that drought.
Fire was an important part of the ecosystem. Most ecosystems in the North Central Prairie developed in a 4 to 6 year regime of recurring fires. Many of these fires resulted from lightning strikes during thunderstorms. Native Americans frequently set fires to manipulate the movement of bison and other animals as well as using fire as a defensive or offensive technique when dealing with their enemies. These historic fires were usually severe because of the amount and volatility of fuel available to carry the fire. The intensity of fires kept shrubs and sapling trees suppressed and allowed grasses and forbs to flourish along with the established trees and naturally occurring dense mottes of shrubs. Tallgrass species are fire tolerant and are enhanced by periodic burning. Forbs usually increase for a year or two following these fires before the grasses become dominant again. These periodic fires perpetuated the diverse mosaic pattern of vegetation on the site.
Lack of fire allows herbaceous vegetation to become senescent and may eventually lead to the loss of the most desirable species. Seedlings of non-native brush species and invasive weeds may encroach on the site from adjacent sites, as well as allowing native shrubs and trees to increase in density and canopy cover.
Prior to settlement, this site was subject to periodic grazing and browsing by vast herds of bison, wild cattle, wild horses, and deer. At times the site was grazed heavily along with adjacent sites. These grazing and browsing episodes were intense and severe, but periods of heavy use were followed by long periods of non-use as the herds migrated to fresh grazing areas before returning to previously grazed areas. The grazed areas had an opportunity to rest, regrow, regain vigor, and reproduce prior to the next grazing event. Intervals between grazing periods were frequently influenced by the amount of time that had elapsed since the last fire on the area.
As the region was settled, fire was reduced or eliminated and grasslands were fenced off to control movement and facilitate grazing by domestic livestock. As a result of abusive grazing or lack of grazing and/or the elimination of fire, in association with extreme climatic events, the tallgrass plant community has been eliminated or severely altered on most Low Stony Hill sites.
Further deterioration leads to the loss of the perennial warm-season midgrass and forb plant community and an increase in short grasses, annuals, and bare ground. This provides the opportunity for aggressive woody species such as juniper to increase in density and canopy, and encroach from adjacent sites.
Selective individual removal of unwanted trees and shrubs is relatively easy and more practical when brush plants initially appear on the site. The increase of brush can be fairly rapid and the plants per acre will soon become too numerous for individual control to be feasible. Once woody plants become mature or develop into dense stands, control is expensive, uneconomical, impractical, and difficult to achieve. Brush management is most successful using a systems approach. Initial treatment by mechanical methods can be followed by using approved herbicides, and using prescribed fire as a maintenance technique. Prescribed grazing with a reasonable stocking rate can sustain the grass species composition and production at a near reference community level.
Changes in plant communities and vegetation states on the Low Stony Hill site are the result of the combined influences of natural events (rainfall, temperature, droughts, etc.) and the accompanying management systems implemented on the area (prescribed fire, grazing management, and brush management).
Rangeland Health Reference Worksheets have been posted for this site on the Texas NRCS website (www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov) in Section II of the eFOTG under (F) Ecological Site Descriptions.
State and Transitional Pathways:
The State and Transition Diagram which follows provides information on some of the most typical pathways that the vegetation on this site can follow as the result of natural events, management inputs, and application of conservation treatments. There may be other plant communities that can exist on this site under certain conditions. Consultation with local experts and professionals is recommended prior to application of practices or management strategies in order to ensure that specific objectives will be met.
State and transition model
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State 1 submodel, plant communities
The reference plant community for the Low Stony Hill ecological site is Tallgrass/Midgrass/Oak Savanna Community. In reference conditions, the site is dominated by little bluestem, big bluestem, and Indiangrass with minor amounts of switchgrass, and a significant community of warm-season midgrasses. An abundant variety of forbs occurs on this site. Trees and shrubs are a very important component of the historic plant community. Annual production ranges from 2000 to 4000 pounds per acre. In the Midgrass/Oak/Shrub Savanna Community, the plant community changed from a tallgrass dominant to a midgrass dominant. Little bluestem and other tallgrasses are still present on the site, but sideoats grama, dropseeds, hairy grama, tridens, cane and silver bluestem, and Texas wintergrass become the dominant grasses. The density and canopy of trees and shrubs begin to increase as shrubs begin to encroach from adjacent areas. There is still a sufficient population of little bluestem and tallgrasses remaining to enable this site to recover to near its historic potential through proper grazing management and prescribed burning. Annual production ranges from 1600 to 3200 pounds per acre.
Tallgrass/Midgrass/Oak Savanna Community
The reference plant community for the Low Stony Hill ecological site is Tallgrass/Midgrass/Oak Savanna Community. In reference conditions, the site is dominated by little bluestem, big bluestem, and Indiangrass with minor amounts of switchgrass, and a significant community of warm-season midgrasses including sideoats grama, green sprangletop, Texas cupgrass, vine mesquite, silver and cane bluestem, and dropseeds. There is also a small, but important, cool-season grass component of Texas wintergrass, Canada and Virginia wildrye, sedges, and Scribner’s rosettegrass. An abundant variety of forbs occurs on this site. Some of the most common or significant forbs are bundleflower, bushsunflower, gayfeather, Engelmann daisy, sagewort, prairie clover sensitivebriar, orange zexmenia, and several native legumes including milkpea, scurfpea, least snoutbean, and trailing wildbean. Trees and shrubs are a very important component of this plant community. Live oak, hackberry, several species of elms, as well as other oaks are the dominant tree species. A small amount of Ashe juniper has always been a part of the historic vegetation on this site. The most common shrubs are bumelia, sumacs, catclaw acacia, elbowbush, kidneywood, agarito, and shinoak. Yucca, pricklypear, and greenbriar are present in small amounts. Annual production ranges from 2000 to 4000 pounds per acre.
Figure 6. Annual production by plant type (representative values) or group (midpoint values)
Table 5. Annual production by plant type
Figure 7. Plant community growth curve (percent production by month). TX3014, Tall and mid-grass Savannah, 10 % canopy. Tall and mid grass savannah with some forbs and woody species..
Midgrass/Oak/Shrub Savanna Community
Uncontrolled grazing, lack of fire, and/or extended unfavorable climatic conditions eventually cause the plant community to change from a tallgrass dominant to a midgrass dominant. Little bluestem and other tallgrasses are still present on the site, but sideoats grama, dropseeds, hairy grama, tridens, cane and silver bluestem, and Texas wintergrass become the dominant grasses. The density and canopy of trees and shrubs begin to increase as shrubs begin to encroach from adjacent areas. There is still a sufficient population of little bluestem and tallgrasses remaining to enable this site to recover to near its historic potential through proper grazing management and prescribed burning. Annual production ranges from 1600 to 3200 pounds per acre.
Figure 9. Annual production by plant type (representative values) or group (midpoint values)
Table 6. Annual production by plant type
Figure 10. Plant community growth curve (percent production by month). TX3045, Midgrass/Tallgrass-Oak Savanna, <20% canopy. Open grassland with abundant forbs, numerous individual trees and mottes of trees and shrubs distributed throughout the site..
Community 1.1 to 1.2
With uncontrolled and heavy continuous grazing and no fires, the Tallgrass/Midgrass/Oak Savanna Community will shift to the Midgrass/Oak/Shrub Savanna Community.
Community 1.2 to 1.1
With the implementation of Prescribed Grazing and Prescribed Burning conservation practices, the Midgrass/Oak/Shrub Savanna Community can be restored back to the Tallgrass/Midgrass/Oak Savanna Community.
In the Oak/Juniper Shrubland Community, tree canopy and shrub density increase dramatically. There is an increase in woody species such as oaks, elms, hackberry, shrubs, and juniper. There is still a fairly good grass and forb community, but herbaceous vegetation production decreases significantly as it is displaced by shrubs. Annual production ranges from 1400 to 2400 pounds per acre.
Oak/Juniper Shrubland Community
An obvious shift in the plant community occurs as a result of heavy grazing, lack of fire, no brush management, and/or extended droughts. Tree canopy and shrub density increase dramatically. There is an increase in woody species such as oaks, elms, hackberry, shrubs, and juniper. There is still a fairly good grass and forb community, but herbaceous vegetation production decreases significantly as it is displaced by shrubs. Annual production ranges from 1400 to 2400 pounds per acre.
Figure 12. Annual production by plant type (representative values) or group (midpoint values)
Table 7. Annual production by plant type
Figure 13. Plant community growth curve (percent production by month). TX3042, Midgrasses/Shrubs/Juniper, 30% Canopy. Midgrass community with significant increase in overstory and midstory canopy, predominantly oak and juniper species..
The Juniper Woodland Community is noted for the development of a dense, almost impenetrable canopy of Ashe juniper and other woody species, a dense shrub midstory, and a sparse herbaceous understory of shortgrasses, annual grasses, sedges, and annual forbs. Annual production ranges from 700 to 1200 pounds per acre.
Juniper Woodland Community
Elimination of fire, lack of brush management, and abusive grazing eventually result in the development of a dense, almost impenetrable canopy of Ashe juniper and other woody species, a dense shrub midstory, and a sparse herbaceous understory of shortgrasses, annual grasses, sedges, and annual forbs. Annual production ranges from 700 to 1200 pounds per acre.
Figure 15. Annual production by plant type (representative values) or group (midpoint values)
Table 8. Annual production by plant type
Figure 16. Plant community growth curve (percent production by month). TX3046, Juniper Woodland, Closed Canopy. Juniper woodland with more than 50% canopy, significantly reduced herbaceous understory vegetation..
Converted Land State
The Converted Land Community has been cultivated for cropland or pastureland purposes. Small grain or forage sorghum may be cropped. Permanent native and introduce pasture may also be planted. Sometimes the community may be abandoned and let “go back” to native species encroached by woody species.
Converted Land Community
Low Stony Hill sites are sometimes seeded to adapted grasses following brush management or other disturbances of the soil surface. They may be seeded to a mixture of native grasses such as sideoats grama, green sprangletop, and Indiangrass. Thousands of acres have been seeded to King Ranch bluestem, an aggressive introduced species that is well adapted to shallow, rocky, soils and harsh conditions. The seeding usually follows brush management practices. King Ranch bluestem has also invaded thousands of acres of this site from adjacent areas. Annual production ranges from 1200 to 2800 pounds per acre.
Figure 18. Annual production by plant type (representative values) or group (midpoint values)
Table 9. Annual production by plant type
Figure 19. Plant community growth curve (percent production by month). TX3047, Reseeded Grassland Community. Reseeded grassland with limited forbs, scattered trees and shrubs..
State 1 to 2
With abusive grazing, no fires, and no brush management, the Savanna State will transition into the Shrubland State.
State 1 to 4
With Seedbed Preparation, Range Planting, Pasture Planting, and Encroachment/Invasion of King Ranch bluestem, the Savanna State will transition into the Converted Land State.
Restoration pathway R2A
State 2 to 1
The restoration occurs from the Shrubland State to the Savanna State by the use of various conservation practices including Prescribed Grazing, Prescribed Burning, Brush Management, and Range Planting.
State 2 to 3
The transition from the Shrubland State to the Woodland State occurs due to continuation of abusive grazing pressure, no fires, and no brush management practices.
State 2 to 4
The transition from the Shrubland State to the Converted Land State occurs due to the application of Brush Management, Seedbed preparation, Range Planting, and Encroachment/Invasion of King Ranch bluestem.
Restoration pathway R3A
State 3 to 2
To restore from the Woodland State to the Shrubland State, the following conservation practices are required: Prescribed Grazing, Prescribed Burning, Brush Management, and Range Planting.
State 3 to 4
The transition from the Woodland State to the Converted Land State requires the use of land clearing, seedbed preparation, range planting, and encroachment/invasion of King Ranch bluestem.
Additional community tables
Table 10. Community 1.1 plant community composition
|Group||Common name||Symbol||Scientific name||Annual production (lb/acre)||Foliar cover (%)|
|little bluestem||SCSC||Schizachyrium scoparium||600–900||–|
|big bluestem||ANGE||Andropogon gerardii||200–1000||–|
|sideoats grama||BOCU||Bouteloua curtipendula||150–600||–|
|hairy grama||BOHI2||Bouteloua hirsuta||50–200||–|
|tall grama||BOHIP||Bouteloua hirsuta var. pectinata||0–200||–|
|silver beardgrass||BOLAT||Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana||50–200||–|
|tumble windmill grass||CHVE2||Chloris verticillata||0–200||–|
|plains lovegrass||ERIN||Eragrostis intermedia||0–200||–|
|Texas cupgrass||ERSE5||Eriochloa sericea||50–200||–|
|sand lovegrass||ERTR3||Eragrostis trichodes||0–200||–|
|green sprangletop||LEDU||Leptochloa dubia||50–200||–|
|seep muhly||MURE2||Muhlenbergia reverchonii||50–200||–|
|vine mesquite||PAOB||Panicum obtusum||0–200||–|
|composite dropseed||SPCOC2||Sporobolus compositus var. compositus||0–200||–|
|Drummond's dropseed||SPCOD3||Sporobolus compositus var. drummondii||50–200||–|
|white tridens||TRAL2||Tridens albescens||0–200||–|
|slim tridens||TRMUE||Tridens muticus var. elongatus||0–200||–|
|slim tridens||TRMUM||Tridens muticus var. muticus||0–200||–|
|purple threeawn||ARPU9||Aristida purpurea||0–200||–|
|Wright's threeawn||ARPUW||Aristida purpurea var. wrightii||0–200||–|
|cane bluestem||BOBA3||Bothriochloa barbinodis||0–200||–|
|Texas wintergrass||NALE3||Nassella leucotricha||100–500||–|
|cedar sedge||CAPL3||Carex planostachys||50–200||–|
|Scribner's rosette grass||DIOLS||Dichanthelium oligosanthes var. scribnerianum||0–200||–|
|Canada wildrye||ELCA4||Elymus canadensis||0–200||–|
|Virginia wildrye||ELVI3||Elymus virginicus||0–200||–|
|fall witchgrass||DICO6||Digitaria cognata||0–200||–|
|hairy woollygrass||ERPI5||Erioneuron pilosum||0–200||–|
|Hall's panicgrass||PAHAH||Panicum hallii var. hallii||0–200||–|
|Texas grama||BORI||Bouteloua rigidiseta||0–100||–|
|red grama||BOTR2||Bouteloua trifida||0–100||–|
|Texas Indian mallow||ABFR3||Abutilon fruticosum||0–200||–|
|Cuman ragweed||AMPS||Ambrosia psilostachya||0–200||–|
|white sagebrush||ARLUM2||Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. mexicana||0–200||–|
|Berlandier's sundrops||CABE6||Calylophus berlandieri||0–200||–|
|American star-thistle||CEAM2||Centaurea americana||0–200||–|
|purple prairie clover||DAPU5||Dalea purpurea||0–200||–|
|Engelmann's daisy||ENPE4||Engelmannia peristenia||0–200||–|
|Leavenworth's eryngo||ERLE11||Eryngium leavenworthii||0–200||–|
|Texas stork's bill||ERTE13||Erodium texanum||0–200||–|
|Indian blanket||GAPU||Gaillardia pulchella||0–200||–|
|curlycup gumweed||GRSQ||Grindelia squarrosa||0–200||–|
|hoary false goldenaster||HECA8||Heterotheca canescens||0–200||–|
|trailing krameria||KRLA||Krameria lanceolata||0–200||–|
|Nuttall's sensitive-briar||MINU6||Mimosa nuttallii||0–200||–|
|yellow puff||NELU2||Neptunia lutea||0–200||–|
|pitcher sage||SAAZG||Salvia azurea var. grandiflora||0–200||–|
|mealycup sage||SAFA2||Salvia farinacea||0–200||–|
|awnless bushsunflower||SICA7||Simsia calva||0–200||–|
|white heath aster||SYERE||Symphyotrichum ericoides var. ericoides||0–200||–|
|Texas vervain||VEHA||Verbena halei||0–200||–|
|catclaw acacia||ACGRG3||Acacia greggii var. greggii||0–200||–|
|Christmas cactus||CYLE8||Cylindropuntia leptocaulis||0–200||–|
|Texas kidneywood||EYTE||Eysenhardtia texana||0–200||–|
|pungent oak||QUPU||Quercus pungens||0–200||–|
|bastard oak||QUSIB||Quercus sinuata var. breviloba||0–200||–|
|prairie sumac||RHLA3||Rhus lanceolata||0–200||–|
|littleleaf sumac||RHMI3||Rhus microphylla||0–200||–|
|skunkbush sumac||RHTR||Rhus trilobata||0–200||–|
|gum bully||SILA20||Sideroxylon lanuginosum||0–200||–|
|Texas Hercules' club||ZAHI2||Zanthoxylum hirsutum||0–200||–|
|eastern redbud||CECA4||Cercis canadensis||0–200||–|
|sugarberry||CELAL||Celtis laevigata var. laevigata||0–200||–|
|netleaf hackberry||CELAR||Celtis laevigata var. reticulata||0–200||–|
|Ashe's juniper||JUAS||Juniperus ashei||0–200||–|
|black walnut||JUNI||Juglans nigra||0–200||–|
|Texas red oak||QUBU2||Quercus buckleyi||0–200||–|
|Texas live oak||QUFU||Quercus fusiformis||100–200||–|
|Lacey oak||QULA||Quercus laceyi||0–200||–|
|winged elm||ULAL||Ulmus alata||0–200||–|
|American elm||ULAM||Ulmus americana||0–200||–|
|slippery elm||ULRU||Ulmus rubra||0–200||–|
Historically, the Low Stony Hill site was inhabited permanently and intermittently by a wide variety of mammals, reptiles, and birds. Several historical references and journals written in the 18th and 19th century by explorers, survey parties, and military expeditions refer to herds of bison, wild cattle, wild horses, deer, and other animals roaming freely across the North Central Prairie and adjacent regions.
The Low Stony Hill site provides excellent habitat for many species of wildlife due to the diversity of plant species, growth forms, distribution, and structure of the vegetation that occur. The site provides shelter, escape cover, and nesting habitat, as well as a variety of browse, mast, seeds, and fruit that are important to the diets of various wildlife species. Currently, the site is utilized by deer, wild turkey, quail, numerous species of birds, and a variety of small fur-bearing mammals. Animal species and populations fluctuate as the vegetation cycles through temporary phases and different ecological stages.
Livestock grazing should be controlled by implementing grazing management systems that incorporate frequent and timely deferment periods to prevent abusive grazing. Because of the tree and shrub component and the topography, the Low Stony Hill site is well suited for grazing and browsing by goats.
Plant Preference by Animal Kind:
This rating system provides general guidance as to animal preference for plant species. Grazing preference changes from time to time, especially between seasons, and between animal kinds and classes. Grazing preference does not necessarily reflect the ecological status of the plant within the plant community. For wildlife, plant preferences for food and plant suitability for cover are considered.
Legend: P=Preferred D=Desirable U=Undesirable N=Not Consumed T=Toxic X=Used, but not degree of utilization unknown
Preferred – Percentage of plant in animal diet is greater than it occurs on the land
Desirable – Percentage of plant in animal diet is similar to the percentage composition on the land
Undesirable – Percentage of plant in animal diet is less than it occurs on the land
Not Consumed – Plant would not be eaten under normal conditions. Toxic – Rare occurrence in diet and, if consumed in any tangible amounts results in death or severe illness in animal
The Low Stony Hill site has a very good soil-water-air-plant relationship because of the amount of rock on the soil surface and in the upper portions of the soil profile. Surface rocks retain moisture and release it slowly to the soil and vegetation following showers and light rainfall. Rocks and fragments in the soil provide pockets for oxygen, moisture, and plant roots. When herbaceous vegetation and ground cover are maintained in a healthy and vigorous status, water infiltration into the soil profile is increased significantly, resulting in less runoff. A thick, healthy grass cover also results in improved water quality because it serves as a filter or trap to reduce sediments and pollutants before the water flows offsite. In many areas where this site occurs, the presence of honeycomb limestone or fractured limestone allows water to penetrate deeper into the soil profile than on some of the associated sites with deeper soils and less rock. Natural springs can occasionally be found on this site where the pastures have been well managed.
As the canopy of juniper increases, more rainfall is intercepted before it can reach the soil surface or herbaceous vegetation below. Where dense canopies of junipers and other trees and shrubs occur on this site, the benefits of light and moderate rainfall are effectively eliminated because the moisture never reaches the understory vegetation.
Surface runoff is rapid during heavy rainfall events due to the rough, steep topography, slowly permeable soils, and numerous limestone outcrops.
These scenic areas offer outdoor activities including photography, shaded picnic areas, bird watching, hiking, camping, horseback riding, and off-road vehicle use. The Low Stony Hill site is a prime site for wildlife habitat. Where it is managed properly, it provides outstanding opportunities for hunting deer and turkey.
Ashe juniper is often used for fence posts. Oaks and some of the other hardwood trees can be used for firewood. Some of the woody species may be used for specialty products and crafts.
Plums, agarito berries and pricklypear tunas can be eaten or used to make jelly.
Inventory data references
Vegetation data for this site was obtained from existing Range Site Descriptions, SCS-RANGE -417 Production and Composition Records for Native Grazing Lands, and on-site inventories by the author and local experts including ranchers, natural resource specialists from federal and state agencies, and personnel from cooperating agencies and organizations. A total of 18 SCS-RANGE-417’s containing data collected from 4 counties during the period 12/30/1981 to 12/12/1986 were reviewed for this site.
Ajilvsgi, Geyata. Wildflowers of Texas. Sharer Publishing, Bryan, TX. 1984.
Coffey, Chuck R., and Russell Stevens. Grasses of Southern Oklahoma and North Texas: A Pictorial Guide. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK. 2004
Diggs, George M., Jr., Barney L. Lipscomb, and Robert J. O’Kennon. Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas. Botanical Research Institute of Texas. Fort Worth, TX 1999.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to the following for their cooperation, assistance, and support in the development of this Ecological Site Description:
Tony Baeza, NRCS – Breckenridge, TX
Paul Burns, rancher – Austin, TX
Colonel Burns Ranch – Brown County, TX
Tony Dean, NRCS – Henrietta, TX
Ricky Fain, rancher – Chalk Mountain, TX
Fort Richardson State Park – Jacksboro, TX
Matt Gregory, NRCS – Jacksboro, TX
Rhett Johnson, ranch manager – Granbury, TX
Lake Brownwood State Park – Brownwood, TX
Ricky Marks, NRCS – Brownwood, TX
Dalton Merz, rancher – Holland, TX
Myron Merz, NRCS – Mineral Wells, TX
Misty Pearcy, NRCS – Brownwood, TX
Rancho Hielo Brazos – Glen Rose, TX
Richards Ranch – Jacksboro, TX
Michael and Susannah Wisenbaker, ranchers – Dallas, TX
J. C. Link Ranch
Lem Creswell, RMS, NRCS, Weatherford, Texas
Justin Clary, RMS, NRCS, Temple, Texas
Dan Caudle, DMC Natural Resources, Weatherford, Texas
David Kraft, 10/10/2018
Site Development and Testing Plan:
Future work, as described in a Project Plan, to validate the information in this Provisional Ecological Site Description is needed. This will include field activities to collect low, medium and high intensity sampling, soil correlations, and analysis of that data. Annual field reviews should be done by soil scientists and vegetation specialists. A final field review, peer review, quality control, and quality assurance reviews of the ESD will be needed to produce the final document. Annual reviews of the Project Plan are to be conducted by the Ecological Site Technical Team.
Rangeland health reference sheet
Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health is a qualitative assessment protocol used to determine ecosystem condition based on benchmark characteristics described in the Reference Sheet. A suite of 17 (or more) indicators are typically considered in an assessment. The ecological site(s) representative of an assessment location must be known prior to applying the protocol and must be verified based on soils and climate. Current plant community cannot be used to identify the ecological site.
|Author(s)/participant(s)||Lem Creswell, Zone RMS, NRCS, Weatherford, Texas|
|Contact for lead author||817-596-2865|
|Approved by||Mark Moseley, RMS, NRCS, San Antonio, Texas|
|Composition (Indicators 10 and 12) based on||Annual Production|
Number and extent of rills:None.
Presence of water flow patterns:Deposition or erosion is uncommon during normal rainfall events, but may occur in limited areas during intense rainfall events.
Number and height of erosional pedestals or terracettes:None.
Bare ground from Ecological Site Description or other studies (rock, litter, lichen, moss, plant canopy are not bare ground):Expect no more than 20% bare ground scattered randomly throughout the site.
Number of gullies and erosion associated with gullies:Few rills and no gullies should occur.
Extent of wind scoured, blowouts and/or depositional areas:None.
Amount of litter movement (describe size and distance expected to travel):Little or no litter movement or deposition during normal rainfall events.
Soil surface (top few mm) resistance to erosion (stability values are averages - most sites will show a range of values):Soil surface in HCPC is resistant to erosion. Stability range is expected to be 5-6.
Soil surface structure and SOM content (include type of structure and A-horizon color and thickness):0-6 inches of Dark brown flaggy silty clay loam with subrounded to angular pebbles, cobbles, and stones. Has a strong fine granular structure. SOM is 1-4%. See soil survey for more information.
Effect of community phase composition (relative proportion of different functional groups) and spatial distribution on infiltration and runoff:The tallgrass/midgrass savanna with abundant forbs, adequate litter, and little bare ground provides for maximum infiltration and negligible runoff.
Presence and thickness of compaction layer (usually none; describe soil profile features which may be mistaken for compaction on this site):None.
Functional/Structural Groups (list in order of descending dominance by above-ground annual-production or live foliar cover using symbols: >>, >, = to indicate much greater than, greater than, and equal to):
Dominant:Warm-season tallgrasses >
Sub-dominant:Warm-season midgrasses > Perennial forbs > Trees > Shrubs/Vines >
Other:Cool-season grasses > Warm-season shortgrasses
Amount of plant mortality and decadence (include which functional groups are expected to show mortality or decadence):Perennial grasses will naturally exhibit a minor amount (less than 5%) of senescence and some mortality every year.
Average percent litter cover (%) and depth ( in):Litter is dominantly herbaceous.
Expected annual annual-production (this is TOTAL above-ground annual-production, not just forage annual-production):2000 to 4000 pounds per acre.
Potential invasive (including noxious) species (native and non-native). List species which BOTH characterize degraded states and have the potential to become a dominant or co-dominant species on the ecological site if their future establishment and growth is not actively controlled by management interventions. Species that become dominant for only one to several years (e.g., short-term response to drought or wildfire) are not invasive plants. Note that unlike other indicators, we are describing what is NOT expected in the reference state for the ecological site:Ashe juniper, redberry juniper, pricklypear, yucca, tasajillo, pricklyash, lotebush, mesquite, King Ranch bluestem, annual broomweed
Perennial plant reproductive capability:All perennial species should be capable of reproducing every year unless disrupted by extended drought, overgrazing, wildfire, insect damage, or other events occuring immediately prior to, or during the reproductive phase.
The Ecosystem Dynamics Interpretive Tool is an information system framework developed by the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and New Mexico State University.
Click on box and path labels to scroll to the respective text.