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Vaccinium oxycoccos - (Vaccinium macrocarpon) / Rhynchospora alba - Drosera rotundifolia / Sphagnum spp. Fen
Translated Name: Small Cranberry - (Cranberry) / White Beaksedge - Roundleaf Sundew / Peatmoss species Fen
Common Name: Cranberry / Beaksedge Peatland
Unique Identifier: CEGL007856
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This dwarf-shrubland occurs on temporarily flooded, semipermanently flooded, or saturated peat deposits in the Allegheny Mountains region of West Virginia, at elevations between 780 and 1210 m, with a low-elevation outlier in the Great Valley of Virginia at 460 m. It is a small-patch type that occupies flat-lying land (0-1 slopes) in headwater basins. Hummock-and-hollow microtopography is well-developed, with rounded peat hummocks ranging from 5-50 cm in height. The substrate is poorly to very poorly drained peat. Peat deposits are greater than one meter deep in late-successional stands. According to carbon dating of peat at Big Run Bog and Cranberry Glades, some sites have been characterized by bog vegetation for more than 10,000 years. Carbon dating of peat at the Virginia site indicates the presence of wetland vegetation for at least 15,000 years. Younger stands often have shallower peat and may contain alluvial lenses of sand or buried clay layers from former beaver ponds. These younger stands sometimes occupy wetter zones within successional shrub peatlands. Mean soil pH is 3.7. Vegetation is characterized by a hummocky mat of Vaccinium oxycoccos with Rhynchospora alba in the hollows on an uneven bed of peat-forming mosses. The sparse short-shrub stratum may include Photinia melanocarpa, Photinia pyrifolia, and Vaccinium myrtilloides. The dwarf-shrub layer is dominated by Vaccinium oxycoccos with occasional dominance or codominance by Vaccinium macrocarpon. Rubus hispidus has high constancy in this stratum. The herbaceous layer is characterized by ombrotrophic bog vegetation with typically northern distribution. Dominant species are Rhynchospora alba and Eriophorum virginicum, with lower cover by Drosera rotundifolia var. rotundifolia, Osmunda cinnamomea var. cinnamomea, Solidago uliginosa, and Gentiana linearis. Nonvascular plants form a hummocky mat dominated by Sphagnum spp. (Sphagnum rubellum, Sphagnum fallax, Sphagnum papillosum, Sphagnum flexuosum, Sphagnum cuspidatum, Sphagnum recurvum, Sphagnum magellanicum) and often including moderate cover by Polytrichum spp. (Polytrichum commune, Polytrichum strictum). Indicator species that help to distinguish this community from others within the high-elevation wetlands of the Allegheny Mountains region are Drosera rotundifolia var. rotundifolia, Rhynchospora alba, Vaccinium macrocarpon, and Vaccinium oxycoccos. Mean species richness of all vascular plants and any nonvascular plants with cover >1% is 16 taxa per 400 square meters. In Virginia, this community occurs on groundwater-saturated, locally floating peat and sphagnum mats along the shoreline of depression ponds developed by solution and collapse of carbonate rocks underlying acidic colluvial materials deposited on the eastern edge of the Great Valley of Virginia, in Augusta, Rockingham, and southern Page counties, Virginia. This community is dominated by dense mats of Vaccinium macrocarpon. Associated species include Calopogon tuberosus, Drosera rotundifolia, Dulichium arundinaceum, Eriophorum virginicum, Juncus canadensis, Pogonia ophioglossoides, Rubus hispidus, Triadenum virginicum, and Xyris torta.



Classification

Classification Confidence: High
Classification Comments: Twenty-six plots (11 occurrences) represent this type in West Virginia, where it was classified as part of a 2004-2006 study of high-elevation wetlands in the Allegheny Mountains region (Byers et al. 2007). This type clusters consistently together and ordinates in a close grouping in the ombrotrophic portion of species space. The type has been adequately sampled throughout its range in West Virginia. The Virginia occurrence is probably a low-elevation (460 m) outlier of the high Allegheny type. In Virginia, beaver activity in recent years has raised water levels as much as 0.7 m in Spring Pond and has damaged, but not destroyed, the peat mats supporting this community (G.P. Fleming pers. comm.). Sarracenia purpurea has been introduced to this habitat in Virginia and West Virginia. This community needs to be compared to possibly related communities. It shows considerable affinities to other boggy communities with abundant Vaccinium macrocarpon, recognized for areas north of Virginia, as well as cranberry zones in "bogs" of the Southern Blue Ridge (which have not been recognized separately in the National Vegetation Classification).

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 2 - Shrub & Herb Vegetation
Subclass 2.C - Shrub & Herb Wetland
Formation 2.C.2 - Temperate to Polar Bog & Fen
Division 2.C.2.Na - North American Bog & Fen
Macrogroup North American Boreal & Sub-boreal Bog & Acidic Fen
Group Eastern North American Sub-boreal Bog & Acidic Fen
Alliance Sub-boreal Graminoid-Moss Fen

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL005256 Carex oligosperma - Carex pauciflora - Eriophorum vaginatum / Sphagnum spp. Acidic Peatland
CEGL006135 Sphagnum rubellum - Vaccinium oxycoccos Fen
CEGL006141 Cladium mariscoides / Vaccinium macrocarpon - Morella pensylvanica Wet Dwarf-shrubland
CEGL006394 Sphagnum (cuspidatum, torreyanum) - Vaccinium macrocarpon Fen
CEGL006570 Eriophorum virginicum - (Carex folliculata) / Sphagnum spp. - Polytrichum spp. Fen



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
West Virginia Vaccinium oxycoccos (Vaccinium macrocarpon) - Rhynchospora alba / Sphagnum spp. dwarf shrubland Equivalent Certain Byers et al. 2007


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Polytrichum - Sphagnum hummocks, wet type
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Gibson, J. R. 1982b. Alder Run Bog, Tucker County, West Virginia: Its history and vegetation. Pages 101-105 in: B. R. MacDonald, editor. Proceedings of the symposium on wetlands of the unglaciated Appalachian region, West Virginia University, Morgantown.
Related Concept Name: Sphagnum - Vaccinium oxycoccos - Rhynchospora alba association
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Darlington, H. C. 1943. Vegetation and substrate of Cranberry Glades, West Virginia. Botanical Gazette 104:371-393.
Related Concept Name: Sphagnum - beakrush community
Relationship: F - Finer
Reference: Robinette, S. L. 1966. Major plant communities of Cranesville Swamp, West Virginia. Arboretum Newsletter 16(1): 1-7.
Related Concept Name: Sphagnum - cranberry community
Relationship: F - Finer
Reference: Robinette, S. L. 1966. Major plant communities of Cranesville Swamp, West Virginia. Arboretum Newsletter 16(1): 1-7.
Related Concept Name: Vaccinium macrocarpon - Pogonia ophioglossoides community
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and N. E. Van Alstine. 1999. Plant communities and floristic features of sinkhole ponds and seepage wetlands in southeastern Augusta County, Virginia. Banisteria 13:67-94.
Related Concept Name: Vaccinium macrocarpon / Pogonia ophioglossoides Dwarf-Shrubland [Provisional]
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
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: Appalachian Bog
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.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.018 Central Interior Highlands and Appalachian Sinkhole and Depression Pond
CES202.069 High Allegheny Wetland


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2 (11May2007)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This is a small-patch type with about a dozen known viable occurrences, five of which occur in protected settings including a TNC nature preserve, USFS Research Botanical Area, USFS Wilderness Area, or USFWS refuge. It has very narrow environmental specificity and high intrinsic vulnerability.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: VA, WV
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community is known from the Allegheny Mountains region of West Virginia, at elevations between 780 and 1210 m, and from the Maple Flats Pond complex in Augusta County, Virginia, at an elevation of 460 m.

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


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: This dwarf-shrubland occurs in the Allegheny Mountains region of West Virginia with a low-elevation outlier in the Great Valley of Virginia. In West Virginia, it is characterized by a hummocky mat of Vaccinium oxycoccos with Rhynchospora alba in the hollows on an uneven bed of peat-forming mosses. The short-shrub stratum averages 5% cover and may include Photinia melanocarpa, Photinia pyrifolia, and Vaccinium myrtilloides. The dwarf-shrub layer averages 25% cover and is dominated by Vaccinium oxycoccos with occasional dominance or codominance by Vaccinium macrocarpon. Rubus hispidus has high constancy in this stratum. The herbaceous layer, with mean 30% cover, is characterized by ombrotrophic bog vegetation with typically northern distribution. Dominant species are Rhynchospora alba and Eriophorum virginicum, with lower cover by Drosera rotundifolia var. rotundifolia, Osmunda cinnamomea var. cinnamomea, Solidago uliginosa, Gentiana linearis, Calopogon tuberosus var. tuberosus, Carex pauciflora, Gaultheria hispidula, Juncus filiformis, Lycopodiella inundata, Platanthera ciliaris, Pogonia ophioglossoides, Xyris torta, and Zigadenus leimanthoides. This community is subject to invasion by introduced Sarracenia purpurea ssp. gibbosa. Nonvascular plants average 90% cover, dominated by Sphagnum spp. (Sphagnum rubellum, Sphagnum fallax, Sphagnum papillosum, Sphagnum flexuosum, Sphagnum cuspidatum, Sphagnum recurvum, Sphagnum magellanicum) and often including moderate cover by Polytrichum spp. (Polytrichum commune, Polytrichum strictum). Indicator species that help to distinguish this community from others within the high-elevation wetlands of the Allegheny Mountains region are Drosera rotundifolia var. rotundifolia, Rhynchospora alba, Vaccinium macrocarpon, and Vaccinium oxycoccos. Mean species richness of all vascular plants and any nonvascular plants with cover >1% is 16 taxa per 400 square meters for 26 plots in West Virginia (Byers et al. 2007). In Virginia, the vegetation is dominated by dense mats of the dwarf-shrub Vaccinium macrocarpon rooted in Sphagnum mosses. Associated species include Calopogon tuberosus, Drosera rotundifolia, Dulichium arundinaceum, Eriophorum virginicum, Juncus canadensis, Platanthera ciliaris, Pogonia ophioglossoides, Rubus hispidus, Triadenum virginicum, and Xyris torta.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Vaccinium macrocarpon G2 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Vaccinium oxycoccos G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Calopogon tuberosus G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Pogonia ophioglossoides G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Xyris torta G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Drosera rotundifolia G2 Succulent forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Eriophorum virginicum G2 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Rhynchospora alba G2 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: Y
Environmental Summary: This dwarf-shrubland occurs on temporarily flooded, semipermanently flooded, or saturated peat deposits in the Allegheny Mountains region of West Virginia, at elevations between 780 and 1210 m, with a low-elevation outlier in the Great Valley of Virginia at 460 m. It is a small-patch type that occupies flat-lying land (0-1 slopes) in headwater basins. Hummock-and-hollow microtopography is well-developed, with rounded peat hummocks ranging from 5-50 cm in height. Bedrock is typically acidic sandstone, and less commonly shale or limestone. The substrate is poorly to very poorly drained peat. Peat deposits are greater than one meter deep in late-successional stands, which typically contain decaying wood fragments within the peat. According to carbon dating of peat at Big Run Bog and Cranberry Glades, some sites have been characterized by bog vegetation for more than 10,000 years (Darlington 1943, Wieder 1982). Carbon dating of peat at the Virginia site indicates the presence of wetland vegetation for at least 15,000 years (Craig 1969). Younger stands often have shallower peat and may contain alluvial lenses of sand or buried clay layers from former beaver ponds. These younger stands sometimes occupy wetter zones within successional shrub peatlands. Hydric soil indicators include histisol, histic epipedon, black histic, hydrogen sulphide, stratified layers, 2 cm muck, depleted matrix, and redox depressions. Mean soil pH is 3.7 (n=10), mean pore water pH is 4.7 (n=14), and electrical conductivity averages 50 micromhos/cm (n=10). Soil chemistry is characterized by high exchangeable nitrogen, total exchange capacity, and organic matter; moderate Al, P, S; and low B, Ca, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, and Zn (n=10). The unvegetated surface is predominantly litter, with an average of 2% standing water (Byers et al. 2007). In Virginia, this community is limited to the southern border of Spring Pond at Maple Flats (Buhlmann et al. 1999), a 2-ha (5-acre), cold, permanently flooded pond with water levels constantly replenished by groundwater inputs. The habitat consists of groundwater-saturated, locally floating peat and Sphagnum mats along the shoreline [see Orontium aquaticum - Schoenoplectus subterminalis - Eriocaulon aquaticum Marsh (CEGL007859) for a description of aquatic vegetation occupying the flooded pond itself].


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: This is a small-patch, largely ombrotrophic dwarf-shrubland community. It is maintained by rainfall and high water tables in adjacent flat-lying headwater basins. Nutrient cycling occurs from the decay of litter or woody vegetation.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): G.P. Fleming and P. Coulling, mod. E.A. Byers
Element Description Edition Date: 30Apr2007
Element Description Author(s): G. Fleming, P. Coulling, E.A. Byers and G. Fleming
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 30Apr2007
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): G. Fleming and E.A. Byers

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


References
  • Buhlmann, K. A., J. C. Mitchell, and L. R. Smith. 1999. Descriptive ecology of the Shenandoah Valley sinkhole pond system in Virginia. Banisteria 13:23-51.

  • Byers, E. A., J. P. Vanderhorst, and B. P. Streets. 2007. Classification and conservation assessment of high elevation wetland communities in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Elkins.

  • Craig, A. J. 1969. Vegetational history of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Geological Society of America Special Paper 123:283-296.

  • Darlington, H. C. 1943. Vegetation and substrate of Cranberry Glades, West Virginia. Botanical Gazette 104:371-393.

  • 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.

  • Fleming, G. P., and N. E. Van Alstine. 1999. Plant communities and floristic features of sinkhole ponds and seepage wetlands in southeastern Augusta County, Virginia. Banisteria 13:67-94.

  • 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.

  • Francl, K. E. 2003. Community characterization of high elevation Central Appalachian wetlands. Ph.D. disseration, University of Georgia, Athens.

  • Gibson, J. R. 1982b. Alder Run Bog, Tucker County, West Virginia: Its history and vegetation. Pages 101-105 in: B. R. MacDonald, editor. Proceedings of the symposium on wetlands of the unglaciated Appalachian region, West Virginia University, Morgantown.

  • Robinette, S. L. 1966. Major plant communities of Cranesville Swamp, West Virginia. Arboretum Newsletter 16(1): 1-7.

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

  • Wieder, R. K. 1982. Biogeochemical relationships in Sphagnum-dominated wetlands in West Virginia. Ph.D. dissertation, West Virginia University, Morgantown.


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