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Picea rubens - (Tsuga canadensis) / Rhododendron maximum Forest
Translated Name: Red Spruce - (Eastern Hemlock) / Great Laurel Forest
Common Name: Red Spruce Forest (Protected Slope Type)
Unique Identifier: CEGL006152
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association includes moist slope forests of the Central and Southern Appalachians. Abies fraseri is a minor component or entirely absent. These communities can occur on high-elevation boulderfields, ridges and steep slopes, as well as sheltered lower slopes above 945 m (3100 feet). This association occurs in the lower elevations of the range of Picea rubens, primarily on protected landforms such as steep to gentle slopes but also on ridges at least in parts of its range. In the Southern and Central Appalachians these are closed-canopy conifer forests dominated by Picea rubens, with associates Tsuga canadensis, Acer pensylvanicum, Amelanchier spp., Betula alleghaniensis, and Sorbus americana. This concept includes protected slope forests in the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as in West Virginia in which Tsuga canadensis is codominant. The shrub layer is dominated by Rhododendron maximum, with associates of Ilex montana, Kalmia latifolia, Viburnum lantanoides, and Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides. In some examples, the shrub layer can include a mixture of Rhododendron catawbiense and Rhododendron maximum. Other minor shrub components can include Vaccinium simulatum, Vaccinium erythrocarpum, and Photinia melanocarpa (= Aronia melanocarpa). Herbaceous cover is typically sparse, but where the shrub stratum is more open, a moderate herb stratum may be developed. This can include Clintonia borealis, Dryopteris campyloptera, Huperzia lucidula, Lycopodium spp., Medeola virginiana, Mitchella repens, Oxalis montana, and Rugelia nudicaulis (in the Great Smoky Mountains).



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: Classification of this unit is supported by 15 plots in Pocahontas, Randolph, and Tucker counties in West Virginia. This association was determined not to be distinct from former Picea rubens - Tsuga canadensis / Rhododendron maximum Forest (CEGL006272) which was merged into this concept. Likewise, former Picea rubens / Rhododendron catawbiense Forest (CEGL006163) of West Virginia also was considered floristically indistinct and is now also included in the concept of CEGL006152.

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 Central Appalachian Red Spruce Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006029 Picea rubens - Tsuga canadensis - Fagus grandifolia / Dryopteris intermedia Forest
CEGL007130 Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / (Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron maximum) Forest
CEGL007131 Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / Vaccinium erythrocarpum / Dryopteris campyloptera / Hylocomium splendens 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 (Low Rhododendron Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012
West Virginia Picea rubens / Rhododendron maximum Forest Equivalent Certain Byers et al. 2010


Other Related Concepts
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: 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 (Low Rhododendron 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: Red spruce-great laurel forest
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: CAP [Central Appalachian Forest Working Group]. 1998. Central Appalachian Working group discussions. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA.
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.

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: G2G3 (15Mar2005)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This and related vegetation types are environmentally restricted within a somewhat geographically restricted range. Their former extent has been reduced to more-or-less isolated, small patches by logging and subsequent fires (Allard and Leonard 1952, Clarkson 1964, Pielke 1981, Stephenson and Clovis 1983). Grank changed to G2G3 from G2? with merging in of two related associations (March 2005). The range of the combined type is from West Virginia south to North Carolina and Tennessee.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: NC, TN, VApotentially occurs, WV
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This association ranges sporadically at appropriate elevations from the Great Smoky Mountains in the Southern Blue Ridge of North Carolina and Tennessee, north to the Central Appalachians in West Virginia. It is not known from Pennsylvania.

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: 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


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: In the Southern and Central Appalachians these are closed to partially open conifer forests dominated by Picea rubens, with associates Tsuga canadensis, Acer pensylvanicum, Acer rubrum, Amelanchier spp., Betula alleghaniensis, and Sorbus americana. In stands of this type Abies fraseri is a minor component or entirely absent. In the vicinity of Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, this association occurs on long protected slopes that extend from low to very high elevations. In these sheltered situations Tsuga canadensis may be a codominant, and the evergreen shrub layer (primarily Rhododendron maximum) is nearly closed, producing stands whose understory is dominated by ericaceous shrubs with few to no herbaceous species (a so-called "ericad desert"). On more-exposed sites the variable shrub layer is dominated by Rhododendron maximum, with associates of Ilex montana, Kalmia latifolia, Viburnum lantanoides, and Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides. In some examples, the shrub layer can include a mixture of Rhododendron catawbiense and Rhododendron maximum. Other minor shrub components can include Vaccinium simulatum, Vaccinium erythrocarpum, and Photinia melanocarpa (= Aronia melanocarpa). The sparse herbaceous layer for more open situations can include Clintonia borealis, Dennstaedtia punctilobula, Dryopteris campyloptera, Dryopteris intermedia, Huperzia lucidula, Lycopodium clavatum, Lycopodium obscurum, Lycopodium dendroideum, Lycopodium hickeyi (= Lycopodium obscurum var. isophyllum), Medeola virginiana, Mitchella repens, Oxalis montana, Trillium undulatum, and Rugelia nudicaulis (in the Great Smoky Mountains). Nonvascular plants are common, especially on moister sites, where they grow on branches and rocks and around the bases of trees and shrubs. Bryophyte species include Bazzania trilobata, Hylocomium splendens, Polytrichum sp., Brotherella recurvans, and Dicranum sp.

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      
 
 
Picea rubens G2 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Tsuga canadensis G2 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Rhododendron catawbiense G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Rhododendron maximum G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Ageratina altissima var. roanensis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Rugelia nudicaulis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Solidago glomerata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Streptopus lanceolatus var. roseus G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Bazzania trilobata G2 Liverwort/hornwort 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  
Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus
  (Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2  
Plethodon nettingi
  (Cheat Mountain Salamander)
G2G3 LT: Listed threatened
Rugelia nudicaulis
  (Rugel's Ragwort)
G3  
Solidago glomerata
  (Skunk Goldenrod)
G3  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This association occurs on steep to gentle, middle to high slopes between 945 and 1524 m (3100-5000 feet) elevation. Sites range from those that are relatively exposed, rocky and subjected to disturbance by wind and ice, to more sheltered lower slopes. Some stands also occur on nearly flat ridgetops (J. Vanderhorst pers. comm.) Soils are well-drained and high in organic matter. In the vicinity of Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, this association occurs on long protected slopes that extend from low to very high elevations. In these sheltered situations Tsuga canadensis is a codominant, and the evergreen shrub layer is nearly closed, producing an "ericad desert" with few to no herbaceous species. On more-exposed sites the shrub layer may be more open, and a sparse to moderate herb layer may be present. It descends to 945 m (3100 feet) in the Central Appalachians. In local landscapes of the Southern Blue Ridge and Central Appalachians, this association tends to occur bimodally, on high ridges and summits and steep, rocky upper slopes, and at lower elevations in sheltered frost-pocket situations, where Picea rubens apparently has a competitive advantage because of moist, acidic, organic soils and/or cold-air drainage.


Dynamic Processes


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): Eastern Ecology Group
Element Description Edition Date: 31Dec2012
Element Description Author(s): M. Pyne
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 15Mar2005
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
  • Adams, H. S., and S. L. Stephenson. 1989. Old growth red spruce communities in the mid-Appalachians. Vegetatio 85:45-56.

  • 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.

  • Allard, H. A., and E. C. Leonard. 1952. The Canaan and the Stony River valleys of West Virginia, their former magnificent spruce forests, their vegetation and floristics today. Castanea 17:1-60.

  • Byers, E. A., J. P. Vanderhorst, and B. P. Streets. 2010. Classification and conservation assessment of upland red spruce communities in West Virginia. West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Elkins.

  • CAP [Central Appalachian Forest Working Group]. 1998. Central Appalachian Working group discussions. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA.

  • Clarkson, R. B. 1964. Tumult on the mountains: Lumbering in West Virginia - 1770-1920. McClain Printing Co., Parsons, WV. 410 pp.

  • Cogbill, C. V., and P. S. White. 1991. The latitude-elevation relationship for spruce-fir forest and treeline along the Appalachian mountain chain. Vegetatio 94:153-175.

  • Crandall, D. L. 1958. Ground vegetation patterns of the spruce-fir area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ecological Monographs 28:337-360.

  • Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.

  • Golden, M. S. 1974. Forest vegetation and site relationships in the central portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 275 pp.

  • Nicholas, N. S., S. M. Zedaker, C. Eagar, and F. T. Bonner. 1992. Seedling recruitment and stand regeneration in spruce-fir forests of the Great Smoky Mountains. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 119:289-299.

  • 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.

  • Pielke, R. A. 1981. The distribution of spruce in west-central Virginia before lumbering. Castanea 46:201-216.

  • 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. 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.

  • Stephenson, S. L., and H. S. Adams. 1984. The spruce-fir forest on the summit of Mount Rogers in southwestern Virginia. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 111:69-75.

  • Stephenson, S. L., and J. F. Clovis. 1983. Spruce forests of the Allegheny Mountains in central West Virginia. Castanea 48:1-12.

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

  • White, P. S., M. D. MacKenzie, and R. T. Busing. 1985. Natural disturbance and gap phase dynamics in Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests. Canadian Journal of Forestry Research 15:233-240.

  • White, P. S., and S. T. A. Pickett. 1985. Natural disturbance and patch dynamics: An introduction. Pages 3-13 in: P. S. White and S. T. A. Pickett, editors. The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics. Academic Press, Orlando, FL.

  • Whittaker, R. H. 1956. Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ecological Monographs 26:1-80.


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