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Alnus viridis ssp. crispa / Carex pensylvanica Shrubland
Translated Name: Mountain Alder / Pennsylvania Sedge Shrubland
Common Name: Southern Appalachian Alder Bald
Unique Identifier: CEGL003891
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This mainly deciduous shrubland occurs at the highest elevations, greater than 1750 m (5800 feet) in the southern Appalachian Mountains on summit ridges of the Roan Mountain massif. It is dominated by Alnus viridis ssp. crispa, typically 1.5-2 m in height, rarely producing a closed canopy but typically occurring as uniformly spaced clumps about 1 m apart. Rubus allegheniensis is often a codominant with Alnus viridis ssp. crispa. Other shrub species occur with low coverage and include Rhododendron catawbiense, Vaccinium corymbosum, and Crataegus spp. Openings in the shrub canopy are dominated by herbs, mainly Carex pensylvanica and Carex debilis var. rudgei but also may include Danthonia compressa, Deschampsia flexuosa, Viola blanda, Rumex acetosella (exotic), and Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides. In moister areas, bryophyte cover can be up to 75%, with Polytrichum commune typical. This community can grade into or occur adjacent to high-elevation rock outcrop communities, montane grass-dominated communities, high-elevation herbaceous seeps, or forests dominated by stunted Fagus grandifolia. It may expand into montane grass-dominated communities and may eventually succeed to Rhododendron catawbiense Shrubland (CEGL003818).



Classification

Classification Confidence: Low
Classification Comments: Other communities dominated by Alnus viridis ssp. crispa may occur in the western and northeastern United States as well as in Canada. This community occurs as disconnected patches on summit ridges, interrupted by grass-dominated vegetation such as Danthonia compressa - (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata) Grassland (CEGL004242) or Carex pensylvanica Grassland (CEGL004094). Additionally, this community can grade into or occur adjacent to high-elevation rock outcrop communities, high-elevation herbaceous seeps, or forests dominated by stunted Fagus grandifolia.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 2 - Shrub & Herb Vegetation
Subclass 2.B - Temperate & Boreal Grassland & Shrubland
Formation 2.B.2 - Temperate Grassland & Shrubland
Division 2.B.2.Nc - Eastern North American Grassland & Shrubland
Macrogroup Appalachian Rocky Felsic & Mafic Scrub & Grassland
Group Southern Appalachian Shrub Bald
Alliance Southern Appalachian Mountain Alder Shrub Bald

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL003818 Rhododendron catawbiense Shrubland



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 Grassy Bald (Alder Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Heath Bald
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: Heath Bald (Alder Subtype)
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schafale, M. 1998b. Fourth approximation guide. High mountain communities. March 1998 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schafale, M. 2002. Fourth approximation guide. Mountain communities. November 2002 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Related Concept Name: Heath Bald, 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: IC4a. Heath Bald Shrubland
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.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.294 Southern Appalachian Grass and Shrub Bald


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G1 (27Oct2010)
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: This community occurs only in the Roan Mountain massif, Avery and Mitchell counties, North Carolina, and Carter County, Tennessee, where it occupies a total acreage of less than 500 hectares. It is a narrowly endemic community, naturally rare, but apparently stable.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: NC, TN
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community occurs only in the Roan Mountain massif of the Southern Blue Ridge of North Carolina and Tennessee.

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: Blue Ridge Mountains Section
Section Code: M221D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: These montane, mainly deciduous shrublands are dominated by Alnus viridis typically 1.5-2 m in height, rarely producing a closed canopy but typically occurring as uniformly spaced clumps about 1 m apart. Rubus allegheniensis is often a codominant with Alnus viridis ssp. crispa. Other shrub species occur with low coverage and include Rhododendron catawbiense, Vaccinium corymbosum, and Crataegus spp. Openings in the shrub canopy are dominated by herbs, mainly Carex pensylvanica and Carex debilis var. rudgei but also may include Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides, Danthonia compressa, Deschampsia flexuosa, Viola blanda, Rumex acetosella (exotic). In moister areas, bryophyte cover can be up to 75%, with Polytrichum commune typical.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Alnus viridis ssp. crispa G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Rubus allegheniensis G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Krigia montana G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Lilium grayi G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Prenanthes roanensis G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Rumex acetosella G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Carex debilis var. rudgei G1 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex pensylvanica G1 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Krigia montana
  (False Dandelion)
G3  
Lilium grayi
  (Gray's Lily)
G3  
Prenanthes roanensis
  (Roan Mountain Rattlesnake-root)
G3  

Vegetation Structure
Stratum Growth Form
Height of Stratum (m)
Cover
Class
%
Min
Cover %
Max
Cover %
Tall shrub/sapling Shrub
 
 
 
 
Herb (field) Herb
 
 
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community occurs on ridges and exposed slopes at elevations of 1770-1800 m (5800-5900 feet). Slope gradients range from 8-15. Extreme cold, high precipitation, frequent fog, and desiccating winds in combination with the shallow, nutrient-poor soils are the key environmental factors influencing this community. This community occurs as disconnected patches on summit ridges, interrupted by grass-dominated vegetation. It can grade into or occur adjacent to high-elevation rock outcrop communities, montane grass-dominated communities, high-elevation herbaceous seeps, or forests dominated by stunted Fagus grandifolia. It often invades montane grass-dominated communities and may eventually succeed to Rhododendron catawbiense Shrubland (CEGL003818).


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: This community may be damaged by lightning-caused fire or defoliating insects (Brown 1941). It is unclear if Alnus viridis ssp. crispa is able to expand into adjacent grassy balds or not. This shrubland may experience invasion by Rhododendron catawbiense, Abies fraseri, and Picea rubens and may succeed to vegetation dominated by these species.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): A.S. Weakley and K.D. Patterson
Element Description Edition Date: 27Oct2010
Element Description Author(s): K.D. Patterson
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 27Oct2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): M. Pyne

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


References
  • 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.

  • Brown, D. M. 1941. Vegetation of Roan Mountain: A phytosociological and successional study. Ecological Monographs 11:61-97.

  • Pyne, M. 1994. Tennessee natural communities. Unpublished document. Tennessee Department of Conservation, Ecology Service Division, Nashville. 7 pp.

  • Schafale, M. 1998b. Fourth approximation guide. High mountain communities. March 1998 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Schafale, M. 2002. Fourth approximation guide. Mountain communities. November 2002 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Schafale, M. P. 2012. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina, 4th Approximation. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • 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.

  • Southeastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Durham, NC.

  • TDNH [Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage]. No date. Unpublished data. Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage, Nashville, TN.


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