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Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / Vaccinium erythrocarpum / Dryopteris campyloptera / Hylocomium splendens Forest
Translated Name: Red Spruce - (Fraser Fir) / Southern Mountain Cranberry / Mountain Woodfern / Splendid Feathermoss Forest
Common Name: Red Spruce - Fraser Fir Forest (Deciduous Shrub Type)
Unique Identifier: CEGL007131
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This community is restricted to the highest mountain systems of the Southern and Central Appalachians in eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia, with disjunct northern outliers on the summits of the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. It is found on all topographic positions and is best developed between 1680 and 1990 m (5500-6200 feet) elevation. In West Virginia, it occurs on ridgetops at elevations above 1350 m (4400 feet). This association includes forests of the Southern and Central Appalachians, primarily within the range of Abies fraseri, dominated by Picea rubens, with or without Abies fraseri, occurring over deciduous shrubs, herbs and bryophytes. This community has a characteristic understory of Southern Appalachian endemic species and a conspicuous bryophyte layer. The tree canopy may have standing dead stems of Abies fraseri and extensive patches of Abies fraseri seedlings in canopy gaps. Characteristic species include Sorbus americana, Acer spicatum, Viburnum lantanoides, Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides, Eurybia chlorolepis (= Aster chlorolepis), Rugelia nudicaulis, Houstonia serpyllifolia, Solidago glomerata, Ptilium crista-castrensis, and Bazzania trilobata.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: West Virginia stands assigned here (2009) differ from Picea rubens / Betula alleghaniensis / Bazzania trilobata Forest (CEGL008501) (the "core" red spruce in WV) in their position at the highest elevations and thereby experiencing the coldest temperatures. Significant indicators that differentiate this type from WV's "core" red spruce are Vaccinium erythrocarpum and Dryopteris campyloptera. Thirteen plots in three counties represent this type in West Virginia. An occurrence on the edge of the Ridge and Valley Province in southwestern Virginia occurs over sandstone on Clinch Mountain.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 1 - Forest & Woodland
Subclass 1.B - Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland
Formation 1.B.2 - Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland
Division 1.B.2.Na - Eastern North American Forest & Woodland
Macrogroup Laurentian-Acadian Mesic Hardwood - Conifer Forest
Group Central & Southern Appalachian Red Spruce - Fir - Hardwood Forest
Alliance Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006049 Abies fraseri / Viburnum lantanoides / Dryopteris campyloptera - Oxalis montana / Hylocomium splendens Forest
CEGL006152 Picea rubens - (Tsuga canadensis) / Rhododendron maximum Forest
CEGL006308 Abies fraseri / (Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron carolinianum) Forest
CEGL007130 Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / (Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron maximum) Forest
CEGL008501 Picea rubens / Betula alleghaniensis / Bazzania trilobata 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
North Carolina Red Spruce--Fraser Fir Forest (Herb Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012
Tennessee Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / Vaccinium erythrocarpum / Oxalis montana - Dryopteris campyloptera / Hylocomium splendens Forest Equivalent Certain TDNH unpubl. data
West Virginia Picea rubens / Vaccinium erythrocarpum / Dryopteris campyloptera Forest Equivalent Certain Byers et al. 2010


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Picea rubens / Viburnum lantanoides - Vaccinium erythrocarpum / Huperzia lucidula - Clintonia borealis Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, K. D. Patterson, and K. Taverna. 2006. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. Second approximation. Version 2.2. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. [http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/ncTIV.shtml]
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and P. P. Coulling. 2001. Ecological communities of the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Preliminary classification and description of vegetation types. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 317 pp.
Related Concept Name: IA4a. Red Spruce - Fraser Fir Forest
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: Oligotrophic Forest
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Rawinski, T. J. 1992. A classification of Virginia's indigenous biotic communities: Vegetated terrestrial, palustrine, and estuarine community classes. Unpublished document. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report No. 92-21. Richmond, VA. 25 pp.
Related Concept Name: Red Spruce - Fraser Fir (7)
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: USFS [U.S. Forest Service]. 1988. Silvicultural examination and prescription field book. USDA Forest Service, Southern Region. Atlanta, GA. 35 pp.
Related Concept Name: Red Spruce - Fraser Fir: 34
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.
Related Concept Name: Red Spruce--Fraser Fir Forest
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Schafale, M. P., and A. S. Weakley. 1990. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina. Third approximation. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh. 325 pp.
Related Concept Name: Red Spruce--Fraser Fir Forest (Herb Subtype)
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schafale, M. 1998b. Fourth approximation guide. High mountain communities. March 1998 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Related Concept Name: Spruce - Fir, BR
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Pyne, M. 1994. Tennessee natural communities. Unpublished document. Tennessee Department of Conservation, Ecology Service Division, Nashville. 7 pp.
Related Concept Name: Spruce / Fir Forest
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, D. P. Walton, K. M. McCoy, and M. R. Parrish. 2001. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. First approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 01-1. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 76 pp.
Related Concept Name: Spruce Community
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Rheinhardt, R. D., and S. A. Ware. 1984. The vegetation of the Balsam Mountains of southwestern Virginia: A phytosociological study. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 111:287-300.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.028 Central and Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2 (01Jun2009)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This community is restricted to the highest mountain systems of the Southern Appalachians in eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia, with outliers in the highest elevations in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. It has a naturally restricted distribution and has been subject to major acreage reduction during the early part of the 20th century and rapid condition decline in the past 30 years. Modern threats include atmospheric pollution deposition and damage by the exotic balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae). Well-developed, undisturbed examples of this community are extremely rare.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: NC, TN, VA, WV
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community is restricted to the highest mountain systems of the Southern Appalachians in eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia, with northern outliers on the summits of West Virginia.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Hot Continental Regime Mountains
Province Name: Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest - Coniferous Forest - Meadow Province
Province Code: M221 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Northern Ridge and Valley Section
Section Code: M221A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Allegheny Mountains Section
Section Code: M221B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Blue Ridge Mountains Section
Section Code: M221D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: These forests are dominated by needle-leaved evergreen trees and have a characteristic understory of Southern Appalachian endemic species and a conspicuous bryophyte layer. Canopies are dominated by Picea rubens, with or without Abies fraseri, sometimes with lesser amounts of Betula alleghaniensis and Sorbus americana. The subcanopy contains canopy species as well as Acer spicatum and Amelanchier laevis. The shrub strata are dominated by deciduous species and can be sparse to dense. Typical shrub species include Viburnum lantanoides, Vaccinium erythrocarpum, Vaccinium simulatum, Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa (= Sambucus racemosa var. pubens), Rubus allegheniensis, Ilex montana, Rhododendron catawbiense, and Rubus canadensis. Extensive patches of Abies fraseri seedlings and standing dead stems of Abies fraseri are common. Herb density can be high but is inversely related to the density of the shrub layer. Common herbaceous species include Oxalis montana, Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides, Dryopteris campyloptera, and Clintonia borealis. Other herbs include Oclemena acuminata (= Aster acuminatus), Eurybia chlorolepis (= Aster chlorolepis), Carex gynandra, Carex pensylvanica, Chelone lyonii, Circaea alpina ssp. alpina, Houstonia serpyllifolia, Huperzia lucidula, Maianthemum canadense, Rugelia nudicaulis, Solidago glomerata, Streptopus lanceolatus var. roseus (= Streptopus roseus var. roseus), and Viola macloskeyi ssp. pallens. Bryophytes and lichens make up a considerable percent of the vegetative coverage in this community, occurring on the surface of the soil, trees, and fallen logs. Characteristic nonvascular species include Hylocomium splendens, Ptilium crista-castrensis, Leptodontium excelsum, Bazzania trilobata, Bazzania nudicaulis, Alectoria fallacina, Hypotrachyna virginica, Dicranum scoparium, and Dicranum fuscescens. Disjunct, outlier stands on summits in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia lack Abies and exhibit a dense canopy of Picea rubens, with a sparse to dense understory of Vaccinium erythrocarpum, on a luxuriant carpet of Bazzania trilobata and mosses. In Virginia, the rare plants Abies fraseri, Cardamine clematitis, and Prenanthes roanensis are minor components of this community.

Canopy structure and composition are fairly uniform, but understory composition changes continuously along a moisture gradient. Whittaker (1956) described five variations of the understory of Red Spruce - Fraser Fir Forests: (1) Valley subtype: moss, Oxalis, and low shrub cover <5%, high herb cover 30% and high shrub cover 20%; (2) North slopes and flats: moss and Oxalis cover 25-55%, low and high shrub cover 5-20%, high herb strata is dominated by Dryopteris with other mesic herbs; (3) Intermediate east- and west-facing slopes: moss, Oxalis and fern cover 15-30%, low and high shrub cover 5-10%; (4) South slope subtype: all five strata are <10% cover; and (5) Ridge and steep upper slope: rhododendron heath approaches full coverage of understory.


Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Abies fraseri G2 Needle-leaved tree Tree (canopy & subcanopy)  
 
 
Betula papyrifera var. cordifolia G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy      
 
 
Picea rubens G2 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Acer spicatum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Amelanchier laevis G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Betula alleghaniensis G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Sorbus americana G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Vaccinium erythrocarpum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)  
 
 
Viburnum lantanoides G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Ribes rotundifolium G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Ageratina altissima var. roanensis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Angelica triquinata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Cardamine clematitis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Chelone lyonii G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Clintonia borealis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Eurybia chlorolepis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Geum geniculatum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Houstonia serpyllifolia G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Hypericum graveolens G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Oxalis montana G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Prenanthes roanensis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Rugelia nudicaulis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Solidago glomerata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Stachys clingmanii G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Stellaria corei G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Streptopus amplexifolius G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Streptopus lanceolatus var. roseus G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Botrychium oneidense G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)      
 
 
Dryopteris campyloptera G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)  
 
 
Huperzia lucidula G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Phegopteris connectilis G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)      
 
 
Calamagrostis canadensis G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Carex projecta G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Carex ruthii G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Glyceria nubigena G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Poa palustris G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Bazzania nudicaulis G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Bazzania trilobata G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular  
 
 
Metzgeria temperata G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Nardia scalaris G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Plagiochila corniculata G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Sphenolobopsis pearsonii G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Brachydontium trichodes G2 Moss Nonvascular      
 
 
Hylocomium splendens G2 Moss Nonvascular  
 
 
Leptodontium excelsum G2 Moss Nonvascular      
 
 
Ptilium crista-castrensis G2 Moss Nonvascular  
 
 
Alectoria fallacina G2 Lichen Nonvascular      
 
 
Gymnoderma lineare G2 Lichen Nonvascular      
 
 
Hypotrachyna virginica G2 Lichen Nonvascular      
 
 
Pseudevernia cladonia G2 Lichen Nonvascular      
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Abies fraseri
  (Fraser Fir)
G2  
Ageratina altissima var. roanensis
  (Appalachian White Snakeroot)
G5T3T4  
Alectoria fallacina
  (Witch's-hair Lichen)
G2  
Bazzania nudicaulis
  (a liverwort)
G2G3  
Brachydontium trichodes
  (Peak Moss)
G2G4  
Cardamine clematitis
  (Small Mountain Bittercress)
G3  
Carex ruthii
  (Ruth's Sedge)
G3  
Desmognathus wrighti
  (Southern Pygmy Salamander)
G3  
Geum geniculatum
  (Bent Avens)
G2  
Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus
  (Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2 LE: Listed endangered
Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus
  (Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2  
Glyceria nubigena
  (Smoky Mountains Mannagrass)
G2G3  
Gymnoderma lineare
  (Rock Gnome Lichen)
G3 LE: Listed endangered
Hypericum graveolens
  (Mountain St. John's-wort)
G3  
Hypotrachyna virginica
  (Virginia Hypotrachyna Lichen)
G1G2  
Leptodontium excelsum
  (Grandfather Mountain Leptodontium)
G2  
Microhexura montivaga
  (Spruce-fir Moss Spider)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Plethodon nettingi
  (Cheat Mountain Salamander)
G2G3 LT: Listed threatened
Plethodon welleri
  (Weller's Salamander)
G3  
Prenanthes roanensis
  (Roan Mountain Rattlesnake-root)
G3  
Pseudevernia cladonia
  (Light-and-dark Lichen)
G2G4  
Rugelia nudicaulis
  (Rugel's Ragwort)
G3  
Solidago glomerata
  (Skunk Goldenrod)
G3  
Sphenolobopsis pearsonii
  (Horsehair Threadwort)
G2?  
Stachys clingmanii
  (Clingman's Hedge-nettle)
G2  

Vegetation Structure
Stratum Growth Form
Height of Stratum (m)
Cover
Class
%
Min
Cover %
Max
Cover %
Tree canopy Needle-leaved tree
 
 
 
 
Tree subcanopy Broad-leaved deciduous tree
 
 
 
 
Short shrub/sapling Broad-leaved deciduous shrub
 
 
 
 
Herb (field) Herb
 
 
 
 
Nonvascular Other/unknown
 
 
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: Over much of its range, this forest community reaches its best development between 1680 and 1990 m (5500-6200 feet) elevation, but it is also found at somewhat lower elevations. Stands occur on all topographic positions. Soils are highly variable, from deep mineral soils to well-developed boulderfields, where a thin organic layer and moss mat overlie the rocks, and there are pockets of mineral soil in deep crevices between boulders. The dominant soils are Inceptisols with scattered occurrences of Spodosols at the highest elevations. Generally, soils are shallow and rocky, with well-developed organic and A horizons. All soils in these high-elevation forests are low in base saturation, high in organic matter, and are acidic in reaction (pH 3.0-5.0), with high aluminum content. The moisture regimes of these areas are mesic to wet due to high rainfall, abundant cloud cover, fog deposition, and low temperatures. The climate has been classified as perhumid, with the temperature varying elevationally from mesothermal to microthermal. The regional geology is dominated by complexly folded metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous rocks of Precambrian and early Paleozoic age, including phyllites, slates, schists, sandstones, quartzites, granites, and gneisses. The disjunct, outlier stands in the Allegheny Mountains occur only at the very highest elevations in the coldest climate niche in the state, on Pennsylvanian sandstone.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Natural disturbances in this community include lightning fire, debris avalanches, wind disturbance, and ice storms (White and Pickett 1985, Nicholas and Zedaker 1989). The natural fire regime is estimated at longer than 500-1000 years. Stand-replacing fires may affect large-patch sizes but occur rarely, at 300- to 1000-year intervals; wind events are likely at more frequent intervals of 100 to 200 years (Gorman 2007). Human-initiated disturbances have included logging, slash fires, livestock grazing, and atmospheric pollutants. An exotic insect, the balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae), invaded the Southern Appalachians in the late 1950s and has drastically altered the last undisturbed remnants of this community. This exotic pest kills mature Abies fraseri within seven years of infestation. In areas where mature Abies fraseri has been lost to woolly adelgid infestation, thickets of Rubus spp., Abies fraseri seedlings and saplings, Betula alleghaniensis, and Sorbus americana are dominant. Over time, Picea rubens, Betula alleghaniensis, Abies fraseri, Acer spicatum, and Sorbus americana increase in the tree layer, while Abies fraseri, Menziesia pilosa, Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus, and Sambucus racemosa var. pubens increase in the shrub layer (White et al. 1993). Succession is especially slow after severe disturbance such as logging and slash fires. The most severely disturbed sites are predominately Prunus pensylvanica and Rubus spp. and may remain in a non-forested stage of succession for 60 years or more.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): K.D. Patterson
Element Description Edition Date: 01Jun2009
Element Description Author(s): K.D. Patterson, M. Pyne and E.A. Byers
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 01Jun2009
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): Southeastern Ecology Group

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


References
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  • 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.

  • Anderson, L. E., H. A. Crum, and W. R. Buck. 1990. List of mosses of North America north of Mexico. The Bryologist 93:448-499.

  • Belden, A., Jr., G. P. Fleming, and J. C. Ludwig. 1994. A Natural Heritage inventory of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 94-16. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. Unpublished report submitted to the Appalachian Trail Conference and George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. 608 pp. plus appendices.

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  • Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, K. D. Patterson, and K. Taverna. 2006. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. Second approximation. Version 2.2. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. [http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/ncTIV.shtml]

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  • Peet, R. K., T. R. Wentworth, M. P. Schafale, and A.S. Weakley. No date. Unpublished data of the North Carolina Vegetation Survey. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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