Background for Teachers

One State/Many Places

TPW Magazine, December 2009

Cover-One State

If you don't have a copy of the TPW magazine, you may print a copy of One State, Many Places.

This month, we are looking at geographic and ecological diversity. Texas is an amazingly diverse state. With northern prairies, south brush country, deserts and mountains of West Texas, northeast woods and wetlands, Texas’ many ecological regions harbor unique plants and wildlife. Texas has the nation’s highest number of birds and reptiles and is second only to California with its number of plants and mammals species. Much of the state’s biodiversity is due to sheer size.

Texas by the Numbers

Approximately 267,000 square miles of land and inland waters
Approximately 367 miles of Gulf of Mexico coastline.
Approximately 200,000 miles of streams and rivers
15 major river basins
1.7 million acres of reservoirs and public water impoundments
6,000 species of plants; greater than 425 of those species are endemics that occur nowhere else
More than 600 bird species have been identified
184 known mammals, including marine species that inhabit Texas’ coastal waters
258 fish species that inhabit fresh water for at least a part of their lives
Approximately 30,000 insect species

Texas travel regionsTexas watercourses range from wide, shallow and sandy prairie rivers, clear, spring-fed streams, to slow-moving bayous with extensive hardwood bottomlands. Many of the state’s rivers and streams originate from Texas freshwater springs. These springs support unique habitats with species found nowhere else in the world. Both the river and stream systems provide water for reservoirs, which range in size from less than one acre to the 185,000 acre Toledo Bend Reservoir. In addition, aquifers underlie much of the state and provide groundwater for people, springs and wildlife.

Map Quest

Political boundaries, vegetation types, soil characteristics, river basins and precipitation are just a few of the ways to divide Texas in regions. You may download TPWD's geographic information system (GIS) lab maps. The Bureau of Economic Geology sells printed maps.

For our purposes, we are using the state travel regions. A collaborate effort among multiple state agencies resulted in this map. This map of only seven regions provides an easy-to-remember designation that brings general characteristics to mind.

jrhike300.jpg Big Bend Country

gulf_marsh_nherron300.jpg Gulf Coast

pedernales.jpg Hill Country

panhandle.jpg Panhandle

piney.jpg Piney Woods

sunset_sm.jpg Prairies and Lakes

sotx.jpg South Texas Plains/Brush Country

To Learn More

As students learn more about Texas, they will discover that rare and endangered species are only in the Arctic or Amazon. Fascinating species and habitats are right here at home, and so are opportunities to be responsible caretakers of our resources. To learn more about the issues facing Texas, read Conservation Challenges.