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Betula alleghaniensis / Sorbus americana - Acer spicatum / Polypodium appalachianum Forest
Translated Name: Yellow Birch / American Mountain-ash - Mountain Maple / Appalachian Polypody Forest
Common Name: Central Appalachian High-Elevation Boulderfield Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL008504
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This community is known from high elevations of the Northern Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and Allegheny Mountains in Virginia and West Virginia. It occupies steep, boulder-strewn slopes at elevations from 975 m (3200 feet) to over 1250 m (4100 feet). The type is most frequent and extensive on straight or concave, middle to upper slopes with northerly aspects, but is found occasionally on slopes with other aspects. Surface substrate is characterized by a surface cover of angular boulders weathered from granite, metabasalt (greenstone), quartzite, or sandstone. This vegetation type has a partly closed to very open canopy overwhelmingly dominated by Betula alleghaniensis. The canopy trees are usually stunted and gnarled, exhibiting the effects of frequent ice and wind damage. Tree density is typically less than that of the surrounding forests. Sorbus americana and Prunus pensylvanica are minor canopy associates. Small tree and shrub densities are variable; Sorbus americana and Acer spicatum often have high cover in these layers. Menziesia pilosa, Sambucus racemosa (= Sambucus pubens), Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus, and Ribes cynosbati are frequent shrubs. Herbaceous cover is often limited by the rocky substrate.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: On the landscape, this association (CEGL008504) grades into fully exposed, lichen-dominated boulderfields at one extreme, and into rocky northern hardwood, red oak, or cove forests at the other. It has not been formally documented from West Virginia but has been observed by Virginia Division of Natural Heritage ecologists at several sites, including Reddish Knob and Panther Knob, Pendleton County, and Black Mountain, Pocahontas County. It is probably widely but locally distributed at high elevations throughout the extreme western Ridge and Valley and Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia.

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 Appalachian-Interior-Northeastern Mesic Forest
Group Appalachian-Allegheny Northern Hardwood - Conifer Forest
Alliance Central & Southern Appalachian Buckeye - Northern Hardwood Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006124 Betula alleghaniensis / Ribes glandulosum / Polypodium appalachianum Forest
CEGL008502 Betula alleghaniensis - Quercus rubra / Acer spicatum / Dryopteris intermedia - Oclemena acuminata Forest



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Betula alleghaniensis / Sorbus americana - Acer spicatum / Polypodium appalachianum Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
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: High-Elevation Boulderfield Forest / Woodland
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
CES202.593 Appalachian (Hemlock)-Northern Hardwood Forest
CES202.596 Central and Southern Appalachian Montane Oak Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2 (21Jun2001)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This is a small-patch community type occupying very restricted habitats within a narrow geographic range. There are less than 20 known occurrences of the type in Virginia.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: VA, WV
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community type is known from high elevations of the Northern Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and Allegheny Mountains in Virginia and West Virginia.

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


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: This vegetation type has a partly closed to very open canopy overwhelmingly dominated by Betula alleghaniensis. The canopy trees are usually stunted and gnarled, exhibiting the effects of frequent ice and wind damage. Tree density is typically less than that of the surrounding forests. Sorbus americana and Prunus pensylvanica are minor canopy associates. Small tree and shrub densities are variable; Sorbus americana and Acer spicatum often have high cover in these layers. Menziesia pilosa, Sambucus racemosa (= Sambucus pubens), and Ribes cynosbati are frequent shrubs. Herbaceous cover is often limited by the rocky substrate, but lithophytic species such as Polypodium appalachianum may abundantly cover mossy rock surfaces. Additional characteristic herbs include Oclemena acuminata (= Aster acuminatus), Dryopteris marginalis, Hylotelephium telephioides (= Sedum telephioides), Carex brunnescens ssp. sphaerostachya, Carex aestivalis, Arisaema triphyllum, Dryopteris intermedia, Maianthemum canadense, and Polygonatum pubescens. Gymnocarpium appalachianum and Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus are rare plants associated with this vegetation. Mean species richness of plot-sampled stands is 17 taxa per 400 m2.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Betula alleghaniensis G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Sorbus americana G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Acer spicatum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Menziesia pilosa G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Oclemena acuminata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Scutellaria saxatilis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Gymnocarpium appalachianum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)      
 
 
Polypodium appalachianum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Gymnocarpium appalachianum
  (Appalachian Oak Fern)
G3  
Plethodon shenandoah
  (Shenandoah Salamander)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Scutellaria saxatilis
  (Rock Skullcap)
G3  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community occupies steep (up to 38), boulder-strewn slopes at elevations from 975 m to over 1250 m (3200-4100 feet). Mean elevation of plot-sampled Virginia sites is 1119 m (3672 feet). The type is most frequent and extensive on straight or concave, middle to upper slopes with northerly aspects, but is found occasionally on slopes with other aspects. Surface substrate is characterized by surface cover >75% of angular boulders weathered from granite, metabasalt (greenstone), quartzite, and sandstone. Surface cover of bryophytes and lichens on rocks is typically >60%. Mineral soil samples could not be extracted from any of the Virginia plot-sampling sites. Surficial groundwater seepage is very rare in these habitats, although perched, subsurface groundwater may be present in some localities. Extreme winter temperatures, high winds, and ice storms are frequent, and strongly influence the physiognomy of forests on the boulderfields.


Dynamic Processes


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): K.D. Patterson and G.P. Fleming
Element Description Edition Date: 19Feb2010
Element Description Author(s): G.P. Fleming
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 21Jun2001
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): G. Fleming

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


References
  • Fleming, G. P., A. Belden, Jr., K. E. Heffernan, A. C. Chazal, N. E. Van Alstine, and E. M. Butler. 2007a. A natural heritage inventory of the rock outcrops of Shenandoah National Park. Unpublished report submitted to the National Park Service. Natural Heritage Technical Report 07-01. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 433 pp. plus appendixes.

  • 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., P. P. Coulling, K. D. Patterson, and K. M. McCoy. 2004. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. Second approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 04-01. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. [http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/dnh/ncintro.htm]

  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2009b. Classification of selected Virginia montane wetland groups. In-house analysis, December 2009. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • 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 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.

  • Fleming, G. P., and W. H. Moorhead, III. 1996. Ecological land units of the Laurel Fork Area, Highland County, Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 96-08. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 114 pp. plus appendices.

  • Young, J., G. Fleming, P. Townsend, and J. Foster. 2006. Vegetation of Shenandoah National Park in relation to environmental gradients. Final Report (v.1.1). Research technical report prepared for USDI, National Park Service. USGS/NPS Vegetation Mapping Program. 92 pp. plus appendices.

  • Young, J., G. Fleming, W. Cass, and C. Lea. 2009. Vegetation of Shenandoah National Park in relation to environmental gradients, Version 2.0. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2009/142. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 389 pp.


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