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Spartina patens - Schoenoplectus pungens - Solidago sempervirens Grassland
Translated Name: Saltmeadow Cordgrass - Common Threesquare - Seaside Goldenrod Grassland
Common Name: Overwash Dune Grassland
Unique Identifier: CEGL004097
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This community is an upland dune grassland or overwash area of Atlantic barrier islands on embryo dunes or back sides of beaches forming from wave-deposited sand during spring tides or storms. This vegetation sometimes arises when overwash sand is deposited on interdunal swales, resulting in the occasional presence of wetland indicators. This association ranges from Massachusetts to North Carolina.. Sand movement, plant burial, and dune formation rates are not so high as to form Ammophila breviligulata-dominated primary dunes, but can be found as a fringe around the outer edge of those dunes. Spartina patens is dominant, ranging from quite sparse (25% cover) to dense, and can be monotypic in early-successional expressions. Where it forms over buried interdunal swales, remnant individuals of Schoenoplectus pungens (= Scirpus pungens) may be present. Solidago sempervirens is a common associate. Less common associates can include Cyperus grayi, Cenchrus tribuloides, Setaria parviflora, Festuca rubra, Schizachyrium littorale, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium (= Gnaphalium obtusifolium), and occasional scattered individuals of Toxicodendron radicans and seedlings of Baccharis halimifolia. Bare sand is often visible through the vegetation, and there is no soil profile development. Ammophila breviligulata and, at the southern end of the range, Uniola paniculata, Panicum amarum var. amarum, or Panicum amarum var. amarulum may invade from the surrounding dunes. On the Virginia Eastern Shore, a somewhat xerophytic variant of this community occurs on low, narrow, relatively stable backdune ridges between interdune swales, dominated by Spartina patens but supporting a number of drought-tolerant associates such as Triplasis purpurea, Oenothera humifusa, Opuntia humifusa, Physalis walteri, Cirsium horridulum var. horridulum, and Eragrostis spectabilis.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: This community differs ecologically from dune grasslands dominated by Ammophila breviligulata or Uniola paniculata, which are primarily impacted by wind-deposited sand. This community is impacted by wave-deposited sand. It is drier than brackish swales and vegetation that immediately colonizes water-borne sand from storm overwash, such as Spartina patens - Eleocharis parvula Marsh (CEGL006342). Spartina patens - Schizachyrium maritimum - Solidago sempervirens Grassland (CEGL008445) is a southern analog of this association that occurs along the Gulf Coast.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 2 - Shrub & Herb Vegetation
Subclass 2.B - Temperate & Boreal Grassland & Shrubland
Formation 2.B.4 - Temperate to Polar Scrub & Herb Coastal Vegetation
Division 2.B.4.Na - Eastern North American Coastal Scrub & Herb Vegetation
Macrogroup Eastern North American Coastal Dune & Grassland
Group North Atlantic Coastal Dune & Grassland
Alliance Atlantic Overwash Dune Grassland

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006342 Spartina patens - Eleocharis parvula Marsh
CEGL008445 Spartina patens - Schizachyrium maritimum - Solidago sempervirens Grassland



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
Delaware Overwash Dune Grassland Equivalent Certain Coxe 2009
Maryland Spartina patens - Schoenoplectus pungens - Solidago sempervirens Herbaceous Vegetation Equivalent Certain Harrison 2011
New Jersey Spartina patens - Schoenoplectus pungens - Solidago sempervirens Herbaceous Vegetation Equivalent Certain Breden et al. 2001
New York Maritime Dunes Broader Certain Edinger et al. 2002
North Carolina Maritime Dry Grassland (Typic Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Spartina patens - Schoenoplectus pungens - Solidago sempervirens Herbaceous Vegetation
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Bowman, P. 2000. Draft classification for Delaware. Unpublished draft. Delaware Natural Heritage Program.
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: TNC [The Nature Conservancy]. 1997a. Vegetation classification of Assateague Island National Seashore and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Report to the NBS/NPS Vegetation Mapping Program. The Nature Conservancy. Eastern Regional Office, Boston, MA.
Related Concept Name: Dry community of barrier flats
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Travis, R. W., and P. J. Godfrey. 1976. Interactions of plant communities and oceanic overwash on the manipulated barrier islands of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. Pages 777-780 in: Proceedings of the First Conference on Scientific Research in the National Parks, Volume II.
Related Concept Name: Dry maritime grassland
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Lea, C. 2002b. Vegetation classification of Assateague Island National Seashore, Addendum (version 2) - March 1, 2002. Unpublished draft. National Park Service. 31 pp.
Related Concept Name: Grassland community
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Baumann, C. 1978b. The effects of overwash on the vegetation of a Virginia barrier island. M.A. thesis. College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. 104 pp.
Related Concept Name: Low dune community
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Boule, M. E. 1979. The vegetation of Fisherman Island, Virginia. Castanea 44:98-108.
Related Concept Name: Maritime Dry Grassland
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
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: Maritime Dry Grassland (Typic Subtype)
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schafale, M. 2000. Fourth approximation guide. Coastal Plain. January 2000 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Related Concept Name: Maritime Dune Grassland
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.
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.
Related Concept Name: Secondary dunes
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Klotz, L. H. 1986. The vascular flora of Wallops Island and Wallops Mainland, Virginia. Castanea 51:306-326.
Related Concept Name: Wash
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Higgins, E. A. T., R. D. Rappleye, and R. G. Brown. 1971. The flora and ecology of Assateague Island. University of Maryland Experiment Station Bulletin A-172. 70 pp.
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Hill, S. R. 1986. An annotated checklist of the vascular flora of Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia). Castanea 5:265-305.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES203.264 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Dune and Swale
CES203.273 Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain Dune and Maritime Grassland
CES203.892 Atlantic Coastal Plain Northern Salt Pond Marsh


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2G3 (04Nov1998)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This dune grassland community is restricted to overwash areas of major maritime dune systems. It is typically small in extent, not usually more than a few acres in size. It is best developed on barrier islands of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina; it extends sporadically farther north to Massachusetts. As part of a dynamic system, the community is in a sense ephemeral, being buried over time by sand deposition, and being formed anew in other areas subjected to overwash. Because of the dynamic forces structuring the community, it requires sufficient area in large dune systems to accommodate this shifting mosaic. Although not extremely rare (an estimated 100-200 occurrence exist rangewide), the community is restricted to a specialized habitat and is threatened by a number of activities, including dune stabilization, and outright destruction of habitat through human activities.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: DE, MA, MD, NC, NJpotentially occurs, NY, VA
Global Distribution: Canada, United States
Global Range: This community is an upland dune grassland or overwash area of Atlantic barrier islands from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

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: Lower New England Section
Section Code: 221A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Division Name: Subtropical Division
Province Name: Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 232 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain Section
Section Code: 232A 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


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: Spartina patens is dominant, ranging from quite sparse (25% cover) to dense, and can be monotypic in early-successional expressions. Where it forms over buried interdunal swales, remnant individuals of Schoenoplectus pungens (= Scirpus pungens) may be present. As the vegetation develops, common associated species can include Solidago sempervirens. Less common associates can include Cyperus grayi, Cenchrus tribuloides, Setaria parviflora, Festuca rubra, Schizachyrium littorale, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium (= Gnaphalium obtusifolium), and occasional scattered individuals of Toxicodendron radicans and seedlings of Baccharis halimifolia. Ammophila breviligulata and, at the southern end of the range, Uniola paniculata may invade from the surrounding dunes. This community is characterized by upland maritime dune grassland vegetation. Spartina patens, and sometimes Schoenoplectus pungens, or both are dominant on dunes or overwash terraces. Total vegetation cover is variable, ranging from quite sparse (25% cover) to dense. Bare sand is often visible through the vegetation, and there is no soil profile development. Species diversity is variable; although it may be quite low and confined to the nominate species in the northern part of the range, it may be of greater diversity, including Strophostyles helvula, Solidago sempervirens, Cenchrus tribuloides, Setaria parviflora, Distichlis spicata, Sabatia stellaris, Ammophila breviligulata, Suaeda linearis, Bassia hirsuta, Atriplex patula, Fimbristylis castanea, and Cakile edentula ssp. edentula. On the Virginia Eastern Shore, associates of the drier microhabitats supporting this community include Triplasis purpurea, Oenothera humifusa, Opuntia humifusa, Physalis walteri, Cirsium horridulum var. horridulum, and Eragrostis spectabilis.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Bassia hirsuta G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Solidago sempervirens G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Schoenoplectus pungens G2 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Spartina patens G2 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community is an upland dune grassland or overwash area of Atlantic barrier islands on embryo dunes or back sides of beaches forming from overwash terraces. The plants of this community are influenced by water-deposited sand caused by storm surges. They differ ecologically from dune grasslands dominated by Ammophila breviligulata or Uniola paniculata, which are primarily impacted by wind-deposited sand. Storm overwash is a prevalent natural disturbance to this community. On the Virginia Eastern Shore, a somewhat xerophytic variant of this community occurs on low, narrow, relatively stable backdune ridges between interdune swales.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: This association forms a drier, later successional phase of an overwash community begun from water-deposited sand of storm overwash; it appears to be a successional step between interdunal herbaceous wetlands and interdunal herbaceous/shrub uplands. Undisturbed water-deposited sand is colonized by Spartina patens and/or Schoenoplectus pungens plus additional associates like Suaeda linearis, Bassia hirsuta, Atriplex patula, and Fimbristylis castanea that have low percent cover. This wetter, early-successional phase is currently covered by Spartina patens - Eleocharis parvula Marsh (CEGL006342). With time since overwash, sand movement, plant burial, and dune formation rates increase, but are not so high as to form Ammophila breviligulata-dominated primary dunes. However, this association can be found as a fringe around the lower, outer edge of those dunes.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): L.A. Sneddon and A. Berdine, mod. S.L. Neid
Element Description Edition Date: 06Sep2013
Element Description Author(s): L.A. Sneddon
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 04Nov1998
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): L.A. Sneddon

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


References
  • Baumann, C. 1978b. The effects of overwash on the vegetation of a Virginia barrier island. M.A. thesis. College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. 104 pp.

  • Berdine, M. A. 1998. Maryland vegetation classification. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis, MD.

  • Boule, M. E. 1979. The vegetation of Fisherman Island, Virginia. Castanea 44:98-108.

  • Bowman, P. 2000. Draft classification for Delaware. Unpublished draft. Delaware Natural Heritage Program.

  • Breden, T. F., Y. R. Alger, K. S. Walz, and A. G. Windisch. 2001. Classification of vegetation communities of New Jersey: Second iteration. Association for Biodiversity Information and New Jersey Natural Heritage Program, Office of Natural Lands Management, Division of Parks and Forestry, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Trenton.

  • Coxe, R. 2009. Guide to Delaware vegetation communities. Spring 2009 edition. State of Delaware, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Delaware Natural Heritage Program, Smyrna.

  • Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.

  • Edinger, G. J., A. L. Feldmann, T. G. Howard, J. J. Schmid, E. Eastman, E. Largay, and L. A. Sneddon. 2008a. Vegetation classification and mapping at Gateway National Recreation Area. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2008/107. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 283 pp.

  • Edinger, G. J., A. L. Feldmann, T. G. Howard, J. J. Schmid, E. Eastman, E. Largay, and L. A. Sneddon. 2008b. Vegetation classification and mapping at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, New York. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2008/124. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 126 pp.

  • Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero, editors. 2002. Ecological communities of New York state. Second edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's ecological communities of New York state. (Draft for review). New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

  • 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.

  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2011a. Natural communities of Virginia: Ecological groups and community types. Natural Heritage Technical Report 11-07. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 34 pp.

  • Harrison, J. W. 2011. The natural communities of Maryland: 2011 working list of ecological community groups and community types. Unpublished report. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service, Natural Heritage Program, Annapolis. 33 pp.

  • Harrison, J. W., and P. Stango, III. 2003. Shrubland tidal wetland communities of Maryland's Eastern Shore: Identification, assessment and monitoring. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 118 pp.

  • Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.

  • Higgins, E. A. T., R. D. Rappleye, and R. G. Brown. 1971. The flora and ecology of Assateague Island. University of Maryland Experiment Station Bulletin A-172. 70 pp.

  • Hill, S. R. 1986. An annotated checklist of the vascular flora of Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia). Castanea 5:265-305.

  • Klopfer, S. D., A. Olivero, L. Sneddon, and J. Lundgren. 2002. Final report of the NPS Vegetation Mapping Project at Fire Island National Seashore. Conservation Management Institute, GIS & Remote Sensing Division, College of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. 193 pp.

  • Klotz, L. H. 1986. The vascular flora of Wallops Island and Wallops Mainland, Virginia. Castanea 51:306-326.

  • Largay, E. F., and L. A. Sneddon. 2010. Vegetation mapping and classification of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--XXXX/XXX. National Park Service. Philadelphia, PA.

  • Lea, C. 2002b. Vegetation classification of Assateague Island National Seashore, Addendum (version 2) - March 1, 2002. Unpublished draft. National Park Service. 31 pp.

  • NRCS [Natural Resources Conservation Service]. 2001b. Soil survey of Gateway National Recreation Area, New York and New Jersey. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and USDI National Park Service, Gateway National Recreation Area in partnership with Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station and New York City Soil and Water Conservation District.

  • NatureServe. 2009. Vegetation of the E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. International Ecological Classification Standard: Terrestrial Ecological Classifications. NatureServe Central Databases. Arlington, VA. U.S.A. Data current as of 1 December 2009.

  • Reschke, C. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Latham, NY. 96 pp.

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

  • Schafale, M. 2003b. Fourth approximation guide. Coastal Plain communities. March 2003 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.

  • TNC [The Nature Conservancy]. 1995c. NBS/NPS Vegetation Mapping Program: Vegetation classification of Assateague Island National Seashore. Unpublished report. The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Regional Office, Boston, MA.

  • TNC [The Nature Conservancy]. 1997a. Vegetation classification of Assateague Island National Seashore and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Report to the NBS/NPS Vegetation Mapping Program. The Nature Conservancy. Eastern Regional Office, Boston, MA.

  • Travis, R. W., and P. J. Godfrey. 1976. Interactions of plant communities and oceanic overwash on the manipulated barrier islands of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. Pages 777-780 in: Proceedings of the First Conference on Scientific Research in the National Parks, Volume II.

  • Zaremba, R. E., and S. P. Leatherman. 1984. Overwash processes and foredune ecology, Nauset Spit, Massachusetts. Miscellaneous Paper EL-84-8. Prepared by Massachusetts Audubon Society and University of Massachusetts under cooperative agreement between USDI National Park Service, North Atlantic Region, Boston, MA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering Research Center. Published by U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS. 232 pp.


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