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Nyssa aquatica Swamp Forest
Translated Name: Water Tupelo Swamp Forest
Common Name: Water Tupelo Swamp Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL002419
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This semipermanently flooded water tupelo swamp forest is found in the Coastal Plain from Virginia south to Florida, west to Texas, and north in the Mississippi delta region to Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. Stands occur on permanently saturated soils on low, wet flats and sloughs, swales and backswamps, and the association is more common on floodplains of brownwater, rather than blackwater, rivers. Both organic and mineral soils may be present. The vegetation is dominated by dense, and occasionally pure, stands of Nyssa aquatica but often in association with Taxodium distichum (never very abundant in this type), Liquidambar styraciflua, Planera aquatica, Nyssa biflora, Gleditsia aquatica, Fraxinus profunda, and Cephalanthus occidentalis. The herbaceous layer is conspicuously sparse, and density is wholly dependent upon the extent and duration of flooding. Where water is permanent, herbaceous plants rely on substrates found on rotting logs, stumps, terraces, and buttresses of trees. Subcanopy density and forest tree recruitment are poor due to fluctuating water levels.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Low
Classification Comments: More work needs to be done to understand development of this community where the ranges of Nyssa aquatica and Taxodium distichum overlap, to determine the differences between this and a Nyssa aquatica-dominated forest that develops following logging of Taxodium distichum, and to determine the extent of geographic variation. Where bald-cypress and water tupelo ranges overlap, little is known about conditions which select for either or both species. Selective removal of bald-cypress can shift dominance in mixed bald-cypress - water tupelo stands to favor water tupelo. Water tupelo seem to select transitional zones between permanent water and upland habitat and seldom occur as a dominant component of the canopy where inundation is semipermanent or permanent.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 1 - Forest & Woodland
Subclass 1.B - Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland
Formation 1.B.3 - Temperate Flooded & Swamp Forest
Division 1.B.3.Nb - Southeastern North American Flooded & Swamp Forest
Macrogroup Southern Coastal Plain Floodplain Forest
Group Bald-cypress - Tupelo Floodplain Forest
Alliance Water Tupelo Swamp Forest

This is the revised vegetation hierarchy. For more information see Classification Sources and usnvc.org.

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL002420 Taxodium distichum / Lemna minor Floodplain Forest
CEGL002421 Taxodium distichum - (Nyssa aquatica) / Forestiera acuminata - Planera aquatica Floodplain Forest
CEGL004429 Taxodium distichum - Nyssa biflora / Berchemia scandens - Toxicodendron radicans / Woodwardia areolata Swamp Forest
CEGL007422 Taxodium distichum - Nyssa aquatica - Acer rubrum / Itea virginica Floodplain Forest
CEGL008561 Nyssa aquatica Tidal Forest



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Related Subnational Community Units
These data are subject to substantial ongoing revision and may be out of date for some states.
In the U.S., contact the state Heritage Program for the most complete and up-to-date information at: http://www.natureserve.org/natureserve-network.
Information from programs in other jurisdictions will be posted when they are made available.
Subnation Concept Name Relationship to Standard Confidence Reference
Alabama Nyssa aquatica Forest Equivalent Certain ALNHP unpubl. data
Arkansas Tupelo-Blackgum Swamp Undetermined   Foti 1994
Illinois Swamp Broader   White and Madany 1978
Kentucky Cypress (Tupelo) Swamp Broader   Evans 1991
Louisiana Baldcypress Swamp Intersects   Smith 1996
Louisiana Baldcypress-Tupelo Swamp Intersects   Smith 1996
Louisiana Tupelo-Blackgum Swamp Intersects   Smith 1996
Mississippi Tupelo Swamp Broader   Wieland 1994
Missouri Swamp Broader   Nelson 1985
South Carolina Bald cypress - tupelo gum swamp Broader   Nelson 1986
Tennessee Nyssa aquatica Forest Equivalent Certain TDNH unpubl. data


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Nyssa aquatica - Taxodium distichum swamp
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Robertson, P. A., M. D. MacKenzie, and L. F. Elliott. 1984. Gradient analysis and classification of the woody vegetation for four sites in southern Illinois and adjacent Missouri. Vegetatio 58:87-104.
Related Concept Name: Taxodium - Nyssa aquatica / Rosa palustris community
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Voigt, J. W., and R. H. Mohlenbrock. 1964. Plant communities of southern Illinois. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 202 pp.
Related Concept Name: Baldcypress-Water Tupelo Series
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Diamond, D. D. 1993. Classification of the plant communities of Texas (series level). Unpublished document. Texas Natural Heritage Program, Austin. 25 pp.
Related Concept Name: Blackwater Stream Floodplain Forest
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.
Related Concept Name: Brownwater Stream Floodplain Forest
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.
Related Concept Name: Cypress (Tupelo) Swamp
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Evans, M. 1991. Kentucky ecological communities. Draft report to the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission. 19 pp.
Related Concept Name: Cypress Swamp
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Smith, L. M., compiler. 1996a. Natural plant communities in Louisiana currently recognized by the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program. Unpublished document. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Natural Heritage Program, Baton Rouge. 2 pp.
Related Concept Name: Cypress-Tupelo Swamp
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Smith, L. M., compiler. 1996a. Natural plant communities in Louisiana currently recognized by the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program. Unpublished document. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Natural Heritage Program, Baton Rouge. 2 pp.
Related Concept Name: Eastern Broadleaf and Needleleaf Forests: 113: Southern Floodplain Forest (Quercus-Nyssa-Taxodium)
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Küchler, A. W. 1964. Potential natural vegetation of the conterminous United States. American Geographic Society Special Publication 36. New York, NY. 116 pp.
Related Concept Name: Gum Swamp
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Smith, L. M., compiler. 1996a. Natural plant communities in Louisiana currently recognized by the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program. Unpublished document. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Natural Heritage Program, Baton Rouge. 2 pp.
Related Concept Name: IIA4d. Tupelo Swamp
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Allard, D. J. 1990. Southeastern United States ecological community classification. Interim report, Version 1.2. The Nature Conservancy, Southeast Regional Office, Chapel Hill, NC. 96 pp.
Related Concept Name: P1B3dII3a. Nyssa aquatica
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Foti, T., M. Blaney, X. Li, and K. G. Smith. 1994. A classification system for the natural vegetation of Arkansas. Proceedings of the Arkansas Academy of Science 48:50-53.
Related Concept Name: Palustrine Nyssa sp. Series CP
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Pyne, M. 1994. Tennessee natural communities. Unpublished document. Tennessee Department of Conservation, Ecology Service Division, Nashville. 7 pp.
Related Concept Name: Palustrine: Forested Wetland: Riparian
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: TNC [The Nature Conservancy]. 1985. Global Vertebrate Characterization Abstract Habitats. Unpublished document. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA.
Related Concept Name: Palustrine: Palustrine Forested Wetland
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Cowardin, L. M., V. Carter, F. C. Golet, and E. T. LaRoe. 1979. Classification of wetlands and deepwater habitats of the United States. FWS/OBS-79/31. USDI Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services, Washington, DC. 103 pp.
Related Concept Name: Tupelo Swamp
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Oberholster, C. 1993. Preliminary list of natural communities of Alabama. Unpublished document. Alabama Department Conservation and Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Section, Montgomery, AL. 6 pp.
Related Concept Name: UNESCO FORMATION CODE: I.B.3e
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization]. 1973. International classification and mapping of vegetation. Series 6, Ecology and Conservation. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Paris. 93 pp.
Related Concept Name: Water Tupelo - Swamp Tupelo: 103
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES203.065 Red River Large Floodplain Forest
CES203.066 Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain Large River Floodplain Forest
CES203.248 Atlantic Coastal Plain Brownwater Stream Floodplain Forest
CES203.250 Atlantic Coastal Plain Small Brownwater River Floodplain Forest
CES203.488 West Gulf Coastal Plain Large River Floodplain Forest
CES203.489 East Gulf Coastal Plain Large River Floodplain Forest
CES203.490 Mississippi River Bottomland Depression
CES203.493 Southern Coastal Plain Blackwater River Floodplain Forest
CES203.559 East Gulf Coastal Plain Small Stream and River Floodplain Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G4G5 (19Sep2001)
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Depending on how historic distribution and abundance are factored into the rank, the rank could be considerably higher, perhaps a G3G4. Many stands have been extensively cleared.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, KY, LA, MO, MS, SC, TN, TX
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This water tupelo swamp forest is found on the lower Atlantic Coastal Plain from southeastern Virginia to southeastern Georgia, the Gulf Coastal Plain from about Tallahassee, Florida, west to southeastern Texas, the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain to southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri, and the Arkansas River Valley in central Arkansas.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Hot Continental Division
Province Name: Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Continental) Province
Province Code: 222 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Ozark Highlands Section
Section Code: 222A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Upper Gulf Coastal Plain Section
Section Code: 222C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Interior Low Plateau, Shawnee Hills Section
Section Code: 222D Occurrence Status: Predicted or probable
Division Name: Subtropical Division
Province Name: Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 231 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Coastal Plain Middle Section
Section Code: 231B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Middle Coastal Plains, Western Section
Section Code: 231E Occurrence Status: Possible
Section Name: Arkansas Valley Section
Section Code: 231G Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Province Name: Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 232 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Coastal Plains and Flatwoods, Lower Section
Section Code: 232B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Atlantic Coastal Flatwoods Section
Section Code: 232C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Coastal Plains and Flatwoods, Western Gulf Section
Section Code: 232F Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Province Name: Lower Mississippi Riverine Forest Province
Province Code: 234 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Mississippi Alluvial Basin Section
Section Code: 234A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: The vegetation is dominated by dense, and occasionally pure, stands of Nyssa aquatica but often in association with Taxodium distichum (never very abundant in this type), Liquidambar styraciflua, Planera aquatica, Nyssa biflora, Gleditsia aquatica, Fraxinus profunda, and Cephalanthus occidentalis. The herbaceous layer is conspicuously sparse, and density is wholly dependent upon the extent and duration of flooding. Where water is permanent, herbaceous plants rely on substrates found on rotting logs, stumps, terraces, and buttresses of trees. Some herbs which may be present at low densities on these elevated places include Phanopyrum gymnocarpon, Pluchea camphorata, Boehmeria cylindrica, Rudbeckia laciniata, Sagittaria latifolia, Onoclea sensibilis, Triadenum walteri, Carex joorii, Carex glaucescens, Asclepias perennis, Saururus cernuus, Justicia ovata, Leersia lenticularis, and others. The exotic plant species Eichhornia crassipes may a problem. Subcanopy density and forest tree recruitment are poor due to fluctuating water levels (TNC 1995a).

At Shiloh National Military Park (western Tennessee) this occurs with vegetation open-canopied, due to beaver activity (both impounding and chewing of bark which has killed trees). The dominant canopy tree is Nyssa aquatica. Salix nigra is also present in the canopy. Acer rubrum is the only subcanopy tree. Shrubs are fairly dense; Acer rubrum, Alnus serrulata, Cornus foemina, and Itea virginica are the most important, with Nyssa aquatica, Cephalanthus occidentalis, and Salix nigra. Polygonum sagittatum, Leersia oryzoides, Microstegium vimineum, Impatiens capensis, and Polygonum punctatum are the dominant herbaceous plants. Other herbs are Scirpus cyperinus, Mikania scandens, Boehmeria cylindrica, Cicuta maculata, Apios americana, Triadenum walteri, Cinna arundinacea, Sagittaria latifolia (= Sagittaria longirostra), Erechtites hieraciifolia, Ludwigia decurrens, Peltandra virginica, Carex crinita, Commelina virginica, Bidens aristosa (= Bidens polylepis), Carex lupulina, Panicum dichotomiflorum, Bidens frondosa, Ceratophyllum demersum, Pilea pumila, Heteranthera reniformis, Saururus cernuus, Cuscuta gronovii, Gratiola virginiana, Ludwigia peploides ssp. glabrescens, Eclipta prostrata (= Eclipta alba), Galium tinctorium, Lobelia cardinalis, and the exotic Arthraxon hispidus.

This community most commonly occurs in seasonally flooded riparian wetlands or lakes, where standing water is absent during parts of the year. Timing, duration, and depth of flooding are the major environmental factors governing vegetative composition within and among occurrences of forested swamps. Water tupelo is more commonly associated with riparian floodplain wetlands or margins of lakes or ponds where standing water occurs for only a few months of each year (usually winter and spring). Bald-cypress is more commonly associated with permanent deep-water forested wetlands.


Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Nyssa aquatica G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Taxodium distichum G4 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Acer rubrum var. drummondii G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Fraxinus caroliniana G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Planera aquatica G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Ilex amelanchier G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Itea virginica G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Cephalanthus occidentalis G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Forestiera acuminata G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Rosa palustris G4 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Bidens discoidea G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Boehmeria cylindrica G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Galium obtusum G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Heteranthera multiflora G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Lycopus rubellus G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Ranunculus laxicaulis G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Triadenum walteri G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Azolla mexicana G4 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Arthraxon hispidus G4 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Carex decomposita G4 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Microstegium vimineum G4 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Eichhornia crassipes G4 Aquatic herb Floating aquatic      
 
 
Lemna minor G4 Aquatic herb Floating aquatic    
 
 
Spirodela polyrrhiza G4 Aquatic herb Floating aquatic    
 
 
Hottonia inflata G4 Aquatic herb Submerged aquatic      
 
 
Limnobium spongia G4 Aquatic herb Submerged aquatic    
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Carex decomposita
  (Cypress-knee Sedge)
G3G4  

Vegetation Structure
Stratum Growth Form
Height of Stratum (m)
Cover
Class
%
Min
Cover %
Max
Cover %
Tree canopy Broad-leaved deciduous tree
 
 
 
 
Tree subcanopy Broad-leaved deciduous tree
 
 
 
 
Herb (field) Herb
 
 
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: Y
Environmental Summary: Stands of this association occur on permanently saturated soils on low, wet flats and sloughs, swales and backswamps. The association is more common on floodplains of brownwater, rather than blackwater, rivers. Both organic and mineral soils may be present. Soil moisture is abundant and fairly permanent, often with a shallow impermeable clay layer which creates a shallow, perched water table. Anaerobic conditions are prevalent, with considerable gleying due to reduction of iron and manganese. Root zones often exhibit iron mottling and concretions. Soils are generally acidic (4.0-6.0 pH), with low nutrient availability. Historically, periods of flooding and drought have determined community dominance. Sediment deposition also modifies swamp forest communities by decreasing water depth. Excessive sedimentation can speed the natural transition of wetlands as they evolve to a drier condition. Bedrock is deeply buried Paleozoic rock, exhibiting little or no effect on community structure or composition. Unconsolidated alluvial sediments need further characterization.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: This is a climax wetland community. Flooding frequency is approximately 100% of years, and flooding duration is approximately 100% of the growing season. Seasonal (spring and fall) flood pulses contribute to channel scouring and deposition of organic matter (where slackwater and pooling of floodwaters occur). Flooding also provides water which persists during dry periods, although dewatering during summer months is not uncommon. Seasonal flooding and permanent water require special adaptations by vegetation to exist in this extremely dynamic ecosystem. Many plants have highly specialized methods to facilitate acquisition and transport of oxygen during periods of prolonged inundation. Neither bald-cypress nor water tupelo are able to germinate in water and require dry periods to produce seedlings. Seedlings are unable to survive complete submergence, and prolonged flooding with excessive water levels can kill even mature trees. Subcanopy and herbaceous components of this community are very dynamic, and densities fluctuate with availability of substrate.

Nyssa aquatica swamps occur most commonly in riparian zones subject to seasonal hydrologic pulses. Inundation is usually more than 6 months of the year and is greatest during spring and fall. Timing, duration, depth, and extent of flooding greatly affect community composition. Deeper, more permanent flooding conditions seem to select for bald-cypress. Prolonged drought can create conditions favorable for tupelo recruitment. In addition, Nyssa aquatica may replace Taxodium distichum on some sites because bald-cypress has minimal sprouting ability, erratic reproduction, and slower growth (Wharton et al. 1982). Prolonged flooding can increase senescence of seedlings and saplings, removing all but older mature timber. These open areas, while quickly colonized during subsequent dry years, are very dynamic until the hydrology stabilizes sufficiently long to select for a specific species.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): S. Landaal, mod. D. Faber-Langendoen
Element Description Edition Date: 12Aug2004
Element Description Author(s): S. Landaal, D. Faber-Langendoen and R.E. Evans
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 19Sep2001

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


References
  • ALNHP [Alabama Natural Heritage Program]. No date. Unpublished data on file. Alabama Natural Heritage Program, Auburn University.

  • Allard, D. J. 1990. Southeastern United States ecological community classification. Interim report, Version 1.2. The Nature Conservancy, Southeast Regional Office, Chapel Hill, NC. 96 pp.

  • Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.

  • Applequist, M. B. 1959. A study of soil and site factors affecting the growth and development of swamp blackgum and tupelo gum stands in southeastern Georgia. D.F. dissertation, Duke University, Durham, NC. 180 pp.

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  • Foti, T. 1994a. Natural communities of Arkansas (terrestrial and palustrine). Unpublished document. Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Little Rock. 2 pp.

  • Foti, T., M. Blaney, X. Li, and K. G. Smith. 1994. A classification system for the natural vegetation of Arkansas. Proceedings of the Arkansas Academy of Science 48:50-53.

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Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2017. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed:

Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

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Data last updated: November 2016