Ecoregions of Tennessee

Introductory text
Literature cited


(NOTE: maps and GIS files may differ. To make sure you are using the most current ecoregion data, download shapefiles of ecoregions)

GIS data (shapefiles, metadata and symbology):
Ecoregions of Tennessee--poster front side

Map (available in PDF format):

Ecoregions of Tennessee--poster back side

Map (available in PDF format):

Level III and IV Ecoregions of Tennessee

Map (available in PDF format):

Ecoregions denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type, quality, and quantity of environmental resources; they are designed to serve as a spatial framework for the research, assessment, management, and monitoring of ecosystems and ecosystem components. Ecoregions are directly applicable to the immediate needs of state agencies, such as the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), for selecting regional stream reference sites and identifying high-quality waters, developing ecoregion-specific chemical and biological water quality criteria and standards, and augmenting TDEC’s watershed management approach. Ecoregion frameworks are also relevant to integrated ecosystem management, an ultimate goal of most federal and state resource management agencies.

The approach used to compile this map is based on the premise that ecological regions can be identified through the analysis of the patterns and the composition of biotic and abiotic phenomena that affect or reflect differences in ecosystem quality and integrity (Wiken 1986; Omernik 1987, 1995). These phenomena include geology, physiography, vegetation, climate, soils, land use, wildlife, and hydrology. The relative importance of each characteristic varies from one ecological region to another regardless of the hierarchical level. A Roman numeral hierarchical scheme has been adopted for different levels of ecological regions. Level I is the coarsest level, dividing North America into 15 ecological regions, with level II dividing the continent into 52 regions. At level III, the continental United States contains 99 regions (United States Environmental Protection Agency [USEPA] 1997). Level IV is a further subdivision of level III ecoregions. Explanations of the methods used to define USEPA’s ecoregions are given in Omernik (1995), Griffith et al. (1994, 1997), and Gallant et al. (1989).

This level III and IV ecoregion map was compiled at a scale of 1:250,000; it depicts revisions and subdivisions of earlier level III ecoregions that were originally compiled at a smaller scale (USEPA 1996; Omernik 1987). The poster is part of a collaborative project primarily between the USEPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory - Corvallis, OR., and TDEC’s Division of Water Pollution Control. Collaboration and consultation also occurred with the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the United States Department of Agriculture - Forest Service (USFS), USEPA Region IV, and with other State of Tennessee agencies.

This project is associated with an interagency effort to develop a common framework of ecological regions. Reaching that objective requires recognition of the differences in the conceptual approaches and mapping methodologies that have been used to develop the most commonly used existing ecoregion-type frameworks, including those developed by the USFS (Bailey et al. 1994), the USEPA (Omernik 1987, 1995), and the NRCS (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1981). As each of these frameworks is further developed, the differences between them lessen. Regional collaborative projects such as this one in Tennessee, where some agreement can be reached among multiple resource management agencies, is a step in the direction of attaining commonality and consistency in ecoregion frameworks for the entire nation.

Literature Cited:

Bailey, R.G., Avers, P.E., King, T., and McNab, W.H., eds., 1994, Ecoregions and subregions of the United States (map) (supplementary table of map unit descriptions compiled and edited by McNab, W.H. and Bailey, R.G.): Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Agriculture - Forest Service, scale 1:7,500,000.

Gallant, A.L., Whittier, T.R., Larsen, D.P., Omernik, J.M., and Hughes, R.M., 1989, Regionalization as a tool for managing environmental resources: Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.Environmental Protection Agency EPA/600/3-89/060, 152 p.

Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Wilton, T.F., and Pierson, S.M., 1994, Ecoregions and subregions of Iowa - a framework for water quality assessment and management: The Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science, v. 101, no. 1, p. 5-13.

Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., and Azevedo, S.H., 1997, Ecoregions of Tennessee: Corvallis, Oregon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA/600R-97/022, 51 p.

Omernik, J.M., 1987, Ecoregions of the conterminous United States (map supplement): Annals of the Association of American Geographers, v. 77, no. 1, p. 118-125, scale 1:7,500,000.

Omernik, J.M., 1995, Ecoregions - a framework for environmental management, in Davis, W.S. and Simon, T.P., eds., Biological assessment and criteria - tools for water resource planning and decision making: Boca Raton, Florida, Lewis Publishers, p. 49-62.

U.S. Department of Agriculture - Soil Conservation Service, 1981, Land resource regions and major land resource areas of the United States: Agriculture Handbook 296, 156 p.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1997, Level III ecoregions of the continental United States (revision of Omernik, 1987): Corvallis, Oregon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory Map M-1, various scales.

Wiken, E., 1986, Terrestrial ecozones of Canada: Ottawa, Environment Canada, Ecological Land Classification Series no. 19, 26 p.

PRINCIPAL AUTHORS: Glenn Griffith (USEPA), James Omernik (USEPA) and Sandra Azevedo (OAO Corporation).

COLLABORATORS AND CONTRIBUTORS: John Jenkins (NRCS), Richard Livingston (NRCS), James Keys (USFS); Phil Stewart (TDEC), Greg Russell (TDEC), Alan Woods (Dynamac Corporation), Joy Broach (TDEC), Linda Cartwright (TDEC), Debbie Arnwine (Tennessee Department of Health), and Thomas Loveland (USGS).

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