Ecoregions of Utah

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 Utah--poster front side

Map (available in PDF format):

Ecoregions of Utah--poster back side

Map (available in PDF format):

Level III and IV Ecoregions of Utah

Map (available in PDF format):

Level III and IV Ecoregions of Utah

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, including the development of biological criteria and water quality standards and the establishment of management goals for nonpoint-source pollution. They 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 spatial 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. Level II divides the continent into 52 regions (Commission for Environmental Cooperation Working Group 1997). At level III, the continental United States contains 104 ecoregions and the conterminous United States has 84 ecoregions (United States Environmental Protection Agency [USEPA] 2000). Level IV is a further subdivision of level III ecoregions. Explanations of the methods used to define the USEPA’s ecoregions are given in Omernik (1995), Griffith and others (1994), and Gallant and others (1989).

Utah is made up of arid deserts and canyonlands, salt flats, wetlands, semiarid shrublands, irrigated valleys, woodlands, forested mountains, and glaciated peaks. Ecological diversity is enormous. There are 7 level III ecoregions and 37 level IV ecoregions in Utah and most continue into ecologically similar parts of adjacent states. The level III and IV ecoregion map on this poster was compiled at a scale of 1:250,000 and depicts revisions and subdivisions of earlier level III ecoregions that were originally compiled at a smaller scale (USEPA 2000; Omernik 1987). This poster is part of a collaborative project primarily between USEPA Region VIII, USEPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (Corvallis, Oregon), Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, United States Department of Agriculture-Forest Service (USFS), United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), United States Department of the Interior-Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and United States Department of the Interior-Geological Survey (USGS)-Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) Data Center.

The 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 applied to develop the most common ecoregion-type frameworks, including those developed by the USFS (Bailey and others, 1994), the USEPA (Omernik 1987, 1995), and the NRCS (U.S. Department of Agriculture-Soil Conservation Service, 1981). As each of these frameworks is further refined, their differences are becoming less discernible. Regional collaborative projects such as this one in Utah, where agreement has been reached among multiple resource management agencies, is a step toward attaining consensus 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.

Commission for Environmental Cooperation Working Group, 1997, Ecological regions of North America - toward a common perspective: Montreal, Quebec, Commission for Environmental Cooperation, 71 p.

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.

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, 2000, 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: Alan J. Woods (Dynamac Corporation), Duane A. Lammers (USFS), Sandra A. Bryce (Dynamac Corporation), James M. Omernik (USEPA), Richard L. Denton (Utah Division of Water Quality), Mike Domeier (NRCS), and Jeffrey A. Comstock (OAO Corporation).

COLLABORATORS AND CONTRIBUTORS: Tom Collins (USFS), Larry D. Ellicott (NRCS), Elise Giddings (USGS), Don Jensen (Climate Center, Utah State University), Nancy Keate (Utah Office of Planning and Budget), John Lott (USFS), Thomas R. Loveland (USGS), Larry Maxfield (BLM), Chad McGrath (NRCS), George Oliver (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources), Tony Selle (USEPA), Thor D. Thorson (NRCS), and Tom Toole (Utah Division of Water Quality).

REVIEWERS: Janis L. Boettinger (Utah State University), Joel Tuhy (The Nature Conservancy), and James H. Wheeler (Environmental Technology Office, West Desert Test Center, U.S. Army).

CITING THIS POSTER: Woods, A.J., Lammers, D.A., Bryce, S.A., Omernik, J.M., Denton, R.L., Domeier, M., and Comstock, J.A., 2001, Ecoregions of Utah (color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs): Reston, Virginia, U.S. Geological Survey (map scale 1:1,175,000).

This project was partially supported by funds from the USEPA-Office of Research and Development - Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE) program and USEPA-Office of Water, Biological Criteria Program.

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