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Picea rubens - Abies balsamea - Betula papyrifera Forest
Translated Name: Red Spruce - Balsam Fir - Paper Birch Forest
Common Name: Low-Elevation Spruce - Fir Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL006273
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: These red spruce - balsam fir forests are widespread on lower-elevation slopes across boreal regions of the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. They occur in cool and generally moist upland settings, on well-drained tills, and occasionally on kame deposits or eskers. Some areas of poorly drained soils may be present. Most are at elevations of 245-610 m (800-2000 feet). Cold-air drainage allows them to occur in lowlands elevationally below northern hardwood forests. These low-diversity forests have a closed canopy and very sparse shrub and herbaceous layers, except in gaps where regeneration can be dense. The canopy is dominated by Picea rubens, with a minor to moderate amount of Abies balsamea. Associate canopy species may include Picea glauca, Picea mariana, Betula alleghaniensis, Betula papyrifera, and minor amounts of Acer rubrum, Populus tremuloides, or Larix laricina. Tsuga canadensis and Pinus strobus may be present, but are rarely abundant. The shrub layer is patchy and typically includes Acer pensylvanicum and Viburnum lantanoides. Occasional shrubs include Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides, Ilex mucronata, and Sorbus americana or Sorbus decora. The herb layer includes Oxalis montana, Cornus canadensis, Gaultheria hispidula, Clintonia borealis, Huperzia lucidula, Aralia nudicaulis, Tiarella cordifolia, and Trillium erectum. The bryoid layer varies from sparse to locally well-developed, and is typified by Dicranum spp. and Bazzania trilobata. Feathermosses, including Hylocomium splendens, Pleurozium schreberi, Ptilium crista-castrensis, and Thuidium delicatulum, are often present but less abundant than in other spruce-fir forest types. The influence of local cold-air drainage creates a micro-climate that favors this coniferous forest at elevations below the norm for montane spruce-fir. Certain high-elevation species such as Dryopteris campyloptera and Sorbus decora are less abundant here while other lower-elevation species such as Aralia nudicaulis, Tiarella cordifolia, and Trillium erectum may be more abundant. This association is distinguished from other spruce-fir forest types by the combination of upland soils, low- to mid-elevation setting, absence or low importance of black spruce, and not maritime-influenced.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: These forests are often some of the most productive spruce forests, producing trees of extraordinary size; almost all have been logged.

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 Northern Appalachian-Acadian Red Spruce - Fir - Hardwood Forest
Alliance Northern Appalachian Spruce - Fir Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006128 Picea rubens - Abies balsamea / Sorbus americana Forest
CEGL006151 Picea rubens - Picea glauca Forest
CEGL006267 Betula alleghaniensis - Picea rubens / Dryopteris campyloptera Forest
CEGL006505 Picea rubens - Abies balsamea - Betula spp. - Acer rubrum 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
Maine Spruce - fir - broom-moss forest Broader   Gawler 2002
New Hampshire Lowland spruce - fir forest Equivalent   Sperduto 2000
New York Balsam flats Intersects   Edinger et al. 2002
New York Spruce flats Intersects   Edinger et al. 2002
Vermont Lowland Spruce-Fir Forest Broader   Thompson and Sorenson 2000


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Red Spruce - Balsam Fir: 33
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.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES201.565 Acadian Low-Elevation Spruce-Fir-Hardwood Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: GNR (01Dec1997)
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: MA, ME, NH, NY, VT
Canadian Province Distribution: NB, QCpotentially occurs
Global Distribution: Canada, United States

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Warm Continental Division
Province Name: Laurentian Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 212 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Aroostook Hills and Lowlands Section
Section Code: 212A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Maine-New Brunswick Foothills and Lowlands Section
Section Code: 212B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Fundy Coastal and Interior Section
Section Code: 212C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Central Maine Coastal and Embayment Section
Section Code: 212D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Division Name: Warm Continental Regime Mountains
Province Name: Adirondack-New England Mixed Forest - Coniferous Forest - Alpine Meadow Province
Province Code: M212 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: White Mountain Section
Section Code: M212A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Vermont-New Hampshire Upland Section
Section Code: M212B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Green, Taconic, Berkshire Mountain Section
Section Code: M212C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Adirondack Mountain Section
Section Code: M212D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Catskill Mountain Section
Section Code: M212E Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Tug Hill Plateau Section
Section Code: M212F Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: These low-diversity forests have a closed canopy and very sparse shrub and herbaceous layers, except in gaps where regeneration can be dense. The canopy is dominated by Picea rubens, with a minor to moderate amount of Abies balsamea. Associate canopy species may include Picea glauca, Picea mariana, Betula alleghaniensis (= Betula lutea), Betula papyrifera, and minor amounts of Acer rubrum, Populus tremuloides, or Larix laricina. Tsuga canadensis and Pinus strobus may be present, but are rarely abundant. The shrub layer is patchy and typically includes Acer pensylvanicum and Viburnum lantanoides (= Viburnum alnifolium). Occasional shrubs include Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides, Ilex mucronata (= Nemopanthus mucronatus), and Sorbus americana. The herb layer includes Oxalis montana (= Oxalis acetosella), Cornus canadensis, Gaultheria hispidula, Clintonia borealis, Huperzia lucidula (= Lycopodium lucidulum), Aralia nudicaulis, Tiarella cordifolia, and Trillium erectum. The bryoid layer varies from sparse to locally well-developed, and is typified by Dicranum spp. and Bazzania trilobata. Feathermosses, including Hylocomium splendens, Pleurozium schreberi, Ptilium crista-castrensis, and Thuidium delicatulum, are often present but less abundant than in other spruce-fir forest types. The influence of local cold-air drainage and moist soils creates a micro-climate that favors this coniferous forest at elevations below the norm for montane spruce-fir. Certain high-elevation species such as Dryopteris campyloptera and Sorbus decora are less abundant here while other lower-elevation species such as Aralia nudicaulis, Tiarella cordifolia, and Trillium erectum may be more abundant.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Abies balsamea GNR Needle-leaved tree Tree (canopy & subcanopy)  
 
 
Picea rubens GNR Needle-leaved tree Tree (canopy & subcanopy)  
 
 
Acer rubrum GNR Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Betula alleghaniensis GNR Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Betula papyrifera GNR Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Acer pensylvanicum GNR Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Trientalis borealis GNR Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Trillium undulatum GNR Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Dryopteris intermedia GNR Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: These red spruce - balsam fir forests are widespread on lower-elevation slopes across boreal regions of the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. They occur in upland settings, on well-drained tills, and occasionally on kame deposits or eskers. Some areas of poorly drained soils may be present. Most are at elevations of 245-610 m (800-2000 feet). Cold-air drainage allows them to occur in lowlands elevationally below northern hardwood forests; they may be adjacent to wetlands of various types.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: The influence of local cold-air drainage creates a micro-climate that favors this coniferous forest at elevations below the norm for montane spruce-fir. Certain high-elevation species such as Dryopteris campyloptera and Sorbus decora are less abundant here while other lower-elevation species such as Aralia nudicaulis, Tiarella cordifolia, and Trillium erectum may be more abundant.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): Northern Appalachian Planning Team
Element Description Edition Date: 08Apr2013
Element Description Author(s): S.C. Gawler

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


References
  • CDPNQ [Centre de données sur le patrimoine naturel du Québec]. No date. Unpublished data. Centre de données sur le patrimoine naturel du Québec, Québec.

  • Cogbill, C. V. 1987. The boreal forests of New England. Wildflower Notes 2:27-36.

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

  • Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero, editors. 2014a. Ecological communities of New York state. Second edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's ecological communities of New York state. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

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

  • Gawler, S. C. 2002. Natural landscapes of Maine: A guide to vegetated natural communities and ecosystems. Maine Natural Areas Program, Department of Conservation, Augusta, ME.

  • Gawler, S. C., and A. Cutko. 2010. Natural landscapes of Maine: A classification of vegetated natural communities and ecosystems. Maine Natural Areas Program, Department of Conservation, Augusta.

  • Sperduto, D. D., and W. F. Nichols. 2004. Natural communities of New Hampshire: A guide and classification. New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau, DRED Division of Forests and Lands, Concord. 242 pp.

  • Thompson, E. H., and E. R. Sorenson. 2005. Wetland, woodland, wildland: A guide to the natural communities of Vermont. The Nature Conservancy and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. University Press of New England, Hanover, NH. 456 pp.


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