The Interior River Lowlands ecoregion encompasses 93,200 square kilometers (km2) across southern and western Illinois, southwest Indiana, east-central Missouri, and fractions of northwest Kentucky and southeast Iowa. The ecoregion includes the confluence areas of the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, and Wabash Rivers, and their tributaries.
This ecoregion was formed in non-resident, non-calcareous sedimentary rock (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2006). The unstratified soil deposits present north of the White River in Indiana are evidence that pre-Wisconsinan ice once covered much of the Interior River Lowlands. The geomorphic characteristics of this area also include terraced valleys filled with alluvium as well as outwash, acolian, and lacustrine deposits.
Historically, agricultural land use has been a vital economic resource for this region. The drained alluvial soils are farmed for feed grains and soybeans, whereas the valley uplands also are used for forage crops, pasture, woodlots, mixed farming, and livestock (USEPA, 2006). This ecoregion provides a key component of national energy resources as it contains the second largest coal reserve in the United States, and the largest reserve of bituminous coal (Varanka and Shaver, 2007). One of the primary reasons for change in the ecoregion is urbanization.