The city of Houston is situated in one of the most ecologically diverse major urban areas in the country. The forests, prairies, savannahs, bayous, bottomlands, coastlines and ocean around Houston comprise ten ecoregions: seven land-based and three water-based. Ecoregions are large areas of land or water that contain geographically distinct assemblages of species, natural communities, and environmental conditions.
Big Thicket – To the northeast is the Big Thicket, an area of ecological convergence that is unrivaled in its diversity of plant life with eleven distinct ecological systems
Piney Woods – This area of rolling topography and sandier soils contains numerous creeks and smaller rivers. The pine forests are home to many plant and animal species, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
Trinity Bottomlands– To the northeast lies the Trinity River and its wide, relatively undeveloped forested bottomlands with extensive swamps and backwater.
Columbia Bottomlands – A double-canopy forest, the Columbia Bottomlands grows in the fertile floodplains of three river systems that flow into the Gulf of Mexico-the Colorado, San Bernard, and the Brazos. They are distinguished for their use by migrating neotropical bird species in the spring.
Prairie Systems – Originally most of the area coastal prairies were covered with tall grass and dotted with pothole wetlands. While much of this prairie has been converted to farmland or managed grazing, it still functions as a sponge for the region, soaking up rainfall and sheltering a variety of wildlife.
Post Oak Savannah – To the northwest, the prairie yields to the post oak savannah ecosystem, which has a rolling topography that in its neutral state, is an open woodland of post oak trees underlain by grasslands. The savannah is characterized by abundant wildflowers in the spring.
Estuaries & Bays – The Houston Gulf Coast region contains three great estuaries-Sabine Lake, the Galveston Bay system, and the Matagorda Bay system. This area is where fresh water from rivers and salt water come together to create some of the most productive ecosystems anywhere on the globe.
Coastal Marshes – Too the south is a fringe of coastal marshes that provide the transition zone between higher coastal prairies and the waters of our bays and estuaries. These marshlands are internationally known as key habitats for wintering waterfowl.
Gulf of Mexico – The barrier island beaches and dune system separates the bays from the Gulf of Mexico, which is home to a tremendous variety of fish, marine mammals, birds, and coral reefs.
Bayou Wilderness – The bayous that wind their way through the city of Houston (a unique hybrid of urban wilderness )are ribbons of natural space that connect ecoregions and are important for flood control, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and their role in our cultural heritage.
- The City of Houston issued a $100 million bond to the Bayou Greenways project to make Houston one of the best outdoor cities in the country
- There are more than 2,500 miles of waterway in the area for canoeing, kayaking and water fun
- Houston has over 50,000 acres of total park space
- There are 22.6 acres of park space per 1,000 residents (national average is 12.4 acres/1,000)
- Houston is among the nationals’ 10 most-populous cities in total acreage of park space and third behind San Diego and Dallas in park acreage per capita
- In 2012, the American Planning Association named Buffalo Bayou one of the nation’s 10 “great public spaces”
- In 2013, Houston was named one of the 10 greenest cities in the U.S. by causes.com