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Betula nigra - Platanus occidentalis / Alnus serrulata / Boehmeria cylindrica Floodplain Forest
Translated Name: River Birch - American Sycamore / Hazel Alder / Small-spike False Nettle Floodplain Forest
Common Name: River Birch Levee Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL007312
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This riverfront forest, dominated by Betula nigra and Platanus occidentalis, occurs primarily on levees along small rivers and streams. It also is found along flowages of larger rivers ("artificial oxbows"). It ranges from North Carolina to southern Georgia in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain (and into the southern and lower-elevation parts of the Southern Blue Ridge, excluding the highest elevations of the Mountains) and west to eastern Texas, and the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee and possibly northern Alabama. No effort has been made to subdivide this type into northern and southern, or Coastal Plain and Interior variants, although there are undoubtedly some floristic differences between these extremes, at least in the lower strata. Betula nigra contributes at least 50%, and often more, of the tree density of stands of this community. Platanus occidentalis may be codominant, or at least prominent, with large individuals overtopping the Betula, which tends to have a greater number of stems, but Platanus occidentalis may be more conspicuous because of its larger size. Other canopy associates include Liriodendron tulipifera, Liquidambar styraciflua, Acer rubrum, Acer negundo, Ulmus americana, Ulmus rubra, Celtis spp., and Quercus spp.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: Under the new classification hierarchy, this association may require subdivision into three components: one for the coastal plains and adjacent Piedmont from Virginia to Mississippi; one for the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain and West Gulf coastal plains from Arkansas and Louisiana west to Texas; and one from the Appalachian and interior regions. To do this well, some more detailed information may be needed about the floristic differences among these types. No effort has been made to subdivide this type into northern and southern, or Coastal Plain and Interior variants, although there are undoubtedly some floristic differences between these extremes, at least in the lower strata. This includes the 'Sycamore - River Birch - Silver Maple' forests of the Pearl River in Louisiana mentioned by K. Ribbeck. Additional species from the shrub and herb strata need to be added to make more apparent the differences between this association and Betula nigra - Platanus occidentalis Floodplain Forest (CEGL002086), which is a more northern forest. In Kentucky, this association (CEGL007312) would be found on the southern part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, in contrast to CEGL002086, which is more northern. In Virginia, related vegetation is treated as Betula nigra - Platanus occidentalis Floodplain Forest (CEGL002086).

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.Na - Eastern North American-Great Plains Flooded & Swamp Forest
Macrogroup Central Hardwood Floodplain Forest
Group Silver Maple - Sugarberry - Sweetgum Floodplain Forest
Alliance Appalachian-Piedmont River Birch - Sycamore Floodplain Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL002086 Betula nigra - Platanus occidentalis Floodplain Forest
CEGL004282 Betula nigra - Quercus laurifolia - Taxodium (distichum, ascendens) / Crataegus aestivalis Riparian Forest
CEGL006976 Betula nigra - Acer rubrum - (Liquidambar styraciflua) / Microstegium vimineum Ruderal Floodplain 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 Betula nigra - Platanus occidentalis / Alnus serrulata / Boehmeria cylindrica Forest Equivalent Certain Schotz pers. comm.
Kentucky Riparian Forest Broader   Evans 1991
Louisiana Bottomland Hardwood Forest Broader   Smith 1996
Mississippi River Birch - Sycamore Riverfront Forest Undetermined   Wieland 1994
North Carolina Brownwater Levee Forest (Bar Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012
South Carolina Levee Undetermined   Nelson 1986
Tennessee Betula nigra - Platanus occidentalis / Alnus serrulata / Boehmeria cylindrica Forest Equivalent Certain TDNH unpubl. data


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Bottomland Hardwood Forest
Relationship: B - Broader
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: Brownwater Levee Forest (Birch-Sycamore Successional Phase)
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Schafale, M. 2000. Fourth approximation guide. Coastal Plain. January 2000 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Related Concept Name: Coastal Plain Levee Forest (Brownwater Subtype)
Relationship: I - Intersecting
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: Eutrophic Seasonally Flooded 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: IIA7b. River Birch - Sycamore Riverfront 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: Mountain Stream Floodplain Forest
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.
Related Concept Name: Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
Relationship: I - Intersecting
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: Riparian Forest
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Evans, M. 1991. Kentucky ecological communities. Draft report to the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission. 19 pp.
Related Concept Name: River Birch - Sycamore (72)
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: River Birch - Sycamore Riverfront Forest
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: River Birch - Sycamore: 61
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: River Birch Type
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schmalzer, P. A., and H. R. DeSelm. 1982. Vegetation, endangered and threatened plants, critical plant habitats and vascular flora of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. Unpublished report. USDI National Park Service, Obed Wild and Scenic River. 2 volumes. 369 pp.
Related Concept Name: River Birch-Sycamore Riverfront Forest
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Pyne, M. 1994. Tennessee natural communities. Unpublished document. Tennessee Department of Conservation, Ecology Service Division, Nashville. 7 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.036 Cumberland Riverscour
CES202.706 South-Central Interior Small Stream and Riparian
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
CES203.559 East Gulf Coastal Plain Small Stream and River Floodplain Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G4G5 (13Feb2009)
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: This is a widespread, variable, and dynamic association. The principal threats to it come from hydrologic alterations. In addition, stands do not typically contain valuable timber species and are not particularly vulnerable to logging. Stands receive some protection from "streamside management zones" in relation to forestry operations where "best management practices" are employed.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: AL, AR, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This riverfront association ranges from North Carolina to southern Georgia in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain (and into the southern and lower elevations of the Southern Blue Ridge, excluding the highest elevations of the mountains), west to eastern Texas and the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee and possibly northern Alabama.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Hot Continental Division
Province Name: Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Oceanic) Province
Province Code: 221 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Northern Cumberland Plateau Section
Section Code: 221H Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Province Name: Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Continental) Province
Province Code: 222 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, Highland Rim Section
Section Code: 222E Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Division Name: Subtropical Division
Province Name: Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 231 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Southern Appalachian Piedmont Section
Section Code: 231A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Coastal Plain Middle Section
Section Code: 231B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Southern Cumberland Plateau Section
Section Code: 231C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Middle Coastal Plains, Western Section
Section Code: 231E Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
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: Florida Coastal Lowlands (Western) Section
Section Code: 232D 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
Division Name: Prairie Division
Province Name: Prairie Parkland (Subtropical) Province
Province Code: 255 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
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: Cumberland Mountains Section
Section Code: M221C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Blue Ridge Mountains Section
Section Code: M221D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Division Name: Subtropical Regime Mountains
Province Name: Ouachita Mixed Forest - Meadow Province
Province Code: M231 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Ouachita Mountains Section
Section Code: M231A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: Betula nigra contributes at least 50%, and often more, of the tree density of stands of this community. Platanus occidentalis may be codominant, or at least prominent, with large individuals overtopping the Betula, which tends to have a greater number of stems, but Platanus occidentalis may be more conspicuous because of its larger size. Other canopy associates include Liriodendron tulipifera, Liquidambar styraciflua, Acer rubrum, Acer negundo, Ulmus americana, Ulmus rubra, Celtis spp., and Quercus spp. Pinus echinata, Pinus strobus, or Pinus virginiana may be found in some montane or submontane examples. The subcanopy or tall-shrub strata may include Cornus florida and Carpinus caroliniana, along with Acer rubrum, Ilex opaca, Ulmus alata, Prunus serotina, and Carya spp. Shrubs and woody vines may include Alnus serrulata, Euonymus americanus, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Smilax rotundifolia, Toxicodendron radicans, and Vitis rotundifolia. Herbs may include Boehmeria cylindrica, Polygonum virginianum, Rudbeckia laciniata, Sanicula sp., Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (= Aster lateriflorus), Thalictrum dioicum, Viola sororia, Polystichum acrostichoides, Woodwardia areolata, Botrychium dissectum, Botrychium virginianum, and Impatiens capensis. The exotics Ligustrum sinense, Lonicera japonica, Microstegium vimineum, and Rosa multiflora may spread into disturbed examples of this community. No effort has been made to subdivide this type into northern and southern, or Coastal Plain and Interior variants, although there are undoubtedly some floristic differences between these extremes, at least in the lower strata.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Betula nigra G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Liquidambar styraciflua G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Liriodendron tulipifera G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Platanus occidentalis G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Alnus serrulata G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy  
 
 
Carpinus caroliniana G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Salix nigra G4 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Rosa multiflora G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Spiraea virginiana G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Ligustrum sinense G4 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Berchemia scandens G4 Liana Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Campsis radicans G4 Liana Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Toxicodendron radicans G4 Liana Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Vitis riparia G4 Liana Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Asimina parviflora G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Boehmeria cylindrica G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Geranium maculatum G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Impatiens capensis G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Laportea canadensis G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Microstegium vimineum G4 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Lonicera japonica G4 Liana Herb (field)      
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Spiraea virginiana
  (Virginia Spiraea)
G2 LT: Listed threatened


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: Y
Environmental Summary: Betula nigra requires soils with moisture near field capacity throughout the year but is relatively intolerant of flooding; Platanus occidentalis also is intolerant of flooding during the growing season and will die if the entire tree is inundated for more than two weeks. The absence of this community in the lower Mississippi River Alluvial Plain is attributed to this intolerance, as is its most common location on levees of smaller rivers. The community usually is found on the natural levee of the watercourse and, therefore, is slightly elevated from the flats behind the levee. The community is more common along small streams and blackwater streams than along alluvial floodplains, mostly because of the higher sustained flow rates of these larger rivers. It also is found along flowages of larger rivers ("artificial oxbows") in southeast Kentucky. In the Upper East Gulf Coastal Plain (Shiloh National Military Park, Hardin County, Tennessee), this association occurs along small stream floodplains.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: These forests occur on riverfronts in areas with repeated, frequent, natural disturbance in the form of flooding. Occurrences of this type may have a rather high percentage of standing dead trees, including remnant snags from earlier successional communities. A layer of sand is often deposited at the surface of the soil when streams overflow their banks during flash floods. Little or no clay is present in the upper strata of soils. Flooding is seasonal and/or occasional and shallow but never prolonged. Most of this short-duration flooding takes place in early spring.

This is a Zone IV community. Zone IV communities experience seasonal inundation or groundwater saturation for approximately 12.5-25% of the year, usually during spring and early summer with a frequency of 51-100%.

This community often succeeds riverfront forests dominated by Salix spp. and Populus spp. It probably succeeds to forests dominated by Celtis spp., Ulmus spp., Fraxinus pennsylvanica, and Liquidambar styraciflua.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): S. Landaal
Element Description Edition Date: 01Jan2013
Element Description Author(s): S. Landaal and C.W. Nordman
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 13Feb2009
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
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  • Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.

  • Burns, R. M., and B. H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990b. Silvics of North America. Volume 2: Hardwoods. Agriculture Handbook 654. USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC. 877 pp.

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  • Campbell, J. J. N. 1989a. Natural vegetation types. Pages 185-200 in: J. J. N. Campbell, D. T. Towles, J. R. MacGregor, R. R. Cicerello, B. Palmer-Ball, Jr., M. E. Medley, and S. Olson. Cooperative inventory of endangered, sensitive, and rare species, Daniel Boone National Forest, Stanton Ranger District. USDA Forest Service, Winchester, KY.

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  • 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.

  • Palmer-Ball, B., Jr., J. J. N. Campbell, M. E. Medley, D. T. Towles, J. R. MacGregor, and R. R. Cicerello. 1988. Cooperative inventory of endangered, threatened, sensitive and rare species, Daniel Boone National Forest, Somerset Ranger District. USDA Forest Service, Daniel Boone National Forest, Berea, KY. 244 pp.

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  • 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.

  • Schafale, M. 2000. Fourth approximation guide. Coastal Plain. January 2000 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

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  • 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.

  • Schmalzer, P. A., and H. R. DeSelm. 1982. Vegetation, endangered and threatened plants, critical plant habitats and vascular flora of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. Unpublished report. USDI National Park Service, Obed Wild and Scenic River. 2 volumes. 369 pp.

  • Schotz, Al. Personal communication. Community Ecologist. Alabama Natural Heritage Program. Huntingdon College, Massey Hall, 1500 East Fairview Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36106-2148.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • USFS [U.S. Forest Service]. 1988. Silvicultural examination and prescription field book. USDA Forest Service, Southern Region. Atlanta, GA. 35 pp.

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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