This past winter, I had the pleasure of meeting Denise from Missouri. Denise is a journalist with a passion for writing about the environment and natural resources in her region, and I found it interesting to talk to her because I feel the same way about here but can’t quite wrap my brain around the forests of Missouri. One major reason for this is that I’m only familiar with about 3 of the region’s approximately 5 zillion oak species. At one point in the conversation, I let on that I was struggling to keep up with the discussion about Ozark forests, and she gave me a pass. She acknowledged that most of her background was local and declared herself a bioregionalist.
Yes, I thought, this makes sense! I’m the same thing—in love with a place—but in a parallel bioregion about 800 miles north. Maybe I should be a bioregionalist.
Or better yet, a bioregion-ista!!
What’s a bioregion? What’s my bioregion?
Bioregions, as well as biomes and ecoregions, organize land by similarities in climate, geology, soils, vegetation, and other environmental characteristics. Beyond that, there are different ways to do it, and some probably make more sense than others in certain situations. My preference is the maps by the US Forest Service (below, and via map or National Atlas). This is partly because that’s what I’m most used to, but also I also think it does a swell job of defining the area I’m most familiar with (Laurentian Mixed Forest) with the regions adjacent that I’m less familiar with.
Flashback to a homework assignment from a conservation biology course my freshman year of college. At that point, I still had a much firmer grasp of the bioregion where I grew up, as opposed to the place where I went to college (and have since stayed). I found a partially completed copy in my files, and some of the questions are below. Bonus points to you if you can answer these for your bioregion!
- Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.
- Describe the soil around your house in terms of origin and texture.
- Name five native edible wild plants in your bioregion and their seasons of availability.
- Name five extinct/extirpated species in your area.
- What is the largest wilderness area in your bioregion? Have you ever visited it?
Also, this question: Do you see yourself as a temporary or permanent resident of this bioregion? And my response as an 18-year-old: Right now I see myself as a temporary resident of both central Wisconsin and this place. However, I would enjoy being a permanent resident of either one at some point in the future.