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Few can debate the historical and cultural significance of the Ohio River and its surrounding landscape, but how important is it ecologically?

By Amy Nelson

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Few can debate the historical and cultural significance of the Ohio River and its surrounding landscape. The land along the 981 mile river served as home to numerous Native American tribes. The river itself was a primary route for westward traveling pioneers and later became a major corridor for the transport of goods. It is now one of the most populated and industrialized regions of the U.S.…but how significant is the Ohio River watershed ecologically?

We define the Ohio River bioregion as the area that drains into the Ohio River, from the convergence of the Allegheny & Monongahela rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into Mississippi River.

The Ohio River Bioregion happens to include some of the world’s richest assemblages of freshwater mussels, as well as some of the best examples of eastern deciduous forests around. An area that includes two climate zones and follows the course of the glacial ice margin, the OhioRiver Basin is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Join us as we examine the ecology of the Ohio River Bioregion.

We’ll talk with Dr. William H. Martin, who once served as commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources and worked to pass the 1998 Kentucky Forest Conservation Act. A 30-year veteran professor of Biology at Eastern Kentucky University, and former co-chair of the Kentucky Biodiversity Task Force, Dr. Martin tells us about the rich biodiversity of the region’s forests, waterways and caves.

Peek inside the doors of our Ohio River Bioregional (ORB) office and get to know Mike Lighthiser and Suzanne Hoehne. Read Mike’s article “Lost and Found River” as he looks within and outside of the Ohio River Bioregion for inspiration on keeping the River and its Basin on everyone’s radar screen.

The resources section of this issue is loaded with links and material to explore for more information on the Ohio River Bioregion. Check out some of the exciting work we’re doing the Ohio River Bioregion, meet some new team members, and catch up on the latest Biohabitats happenings.

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