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Picea rubens - Abies balsamea / Sorbus americana Forest
Translated Name: Red Spruce - Balsam Fir / American Mountain-ash Forest
Common Name: Montane Spruce - Fir Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL006128
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: These are red spruce - balsam fir forests in moist upland environments of the northern Appalachian Mountains, northern Maine, and adjacent Canada, forming the matrix forest of elevations between 670 and 1070 m (2200-3500 feet), patchy at lower and higher elevations. They occur on well-drained, strongly podzolized, nutrient-poor, usually shallow soils in areas where high-elevation clouds and fog or other microsite conditions provide a continuously moist environment. Through much of its range in the Northeast, this forest is strictly montane; however, north of the 45th parallel it occurs in cool lower-elevation settings as well. It occurs on gentle to steep slopes, north-, east- or west-facing. These forests have mostly closed canopies, but gaps from windthrow are common and are rapidly colonized by regenerating tree species. The shrub and herb layers are variable in cover, generally sparse under closed canopies and better developed in gaps. The bryoid layer is well-developed: one of the characteristic features of these forests is the lush carpet of mosses and liverworts. The moderate to low light levels, persistent snowpack and high moisture availability create favorable conditions for mosses and ferns. The canopy is dominated by Picea rubens and Abies balsamea with associates including Betula papyrifera var. cordifolia, Betula alleghaniensis, and Picea mariana. Scattered shrubs include Sorbus americana, Sorbus decora, Amelanchier bartramiana, Ilex mucronata, and Vaccinium myrtilloides. Particularly characteristic herbs are boreal/montane species such as Oxalis montana, Clintonia borealis, Linnaea borealis, Coptis trifolia, Huperzia lucidula, Dryopteris campyloptera, and Gaultheria hispidula. More widespread associated herbs include Trientalis borealis, Maianthemum canadense, Cornus canadensis, and the ferns Dryopteris intermedia and Phegopteris connectilis. Bryophytes include Pleurozium schreberi, Hylocomium splendens, Bazzania trilobata, Dicranum scoparium, Hypnum curvifolium, and Ptilium crista-castrensis. These spruce-fir forests are distinguished from similar types by their montane or higher-latitude upland setting, prevalence of both red spruce and balsam fir in the canopy, and boreal herbs scattered in the lush bryoid layer.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: The evergreen habit of the dominant trees increases nutrient retention, limits wind desiccation and allows for a slightly longer photosynthetic season than broad-leaved types.

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
CEGL006267 Betula alleghaniensis - Picea rubens / Dryopteris campyloptera Forest
CEGL006273 Picea rubens - Abies balsamea - Betula papyrifera 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 - wood-sorrel - feather-moss forest Equivalent   Gawler and Cutko 2010
Massachusetts High Elevation Spruce - Fir Forest/Woodland Broader   Swain and Kearsley 2001
New Hampshire High-elevation spruce - fir forest Equivalent   Sperduto and Nichols 2004
New York Mountain spruce-fir forest Equivalent   Edinger et al. 2002
Vermont Montane Spruce-Fir Forest Broader   Thompson and Sorenson 2000


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: New England high elevation spruce/fir forest
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Rawinski, T. 1984a. Natural community description abstract - southern New England calcareous seepage swamp. Unpublished report. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA. 6 pp.
Related Concept Name: Paper Birch - Red Spruce - Balsam Fir: 35
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 - 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
CES201.566 Acadian-Appalachian Montane Spruce-Fir Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G3G5 (01Dec1997)
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure

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: 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: 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


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: These forests have mostly closed canopies, but gaps from windthrow are common and are rapidly colonized by regenerating tree species. The shrub and herb layers are variable in cover, generally sparse under closed canopies and better developed in gaps. The bryoid layer is well-developed: one of the characteristic features of these forests is the lush carpet of mosses and liverworts. The moderate to low light levels, persistent snowpack and high moisture availability create favorable conditions for mosses and ferns. The canopy is dominated by Picea rubens and Abies balsamea with associates including Betula papyrifera var. cordifolia, Betula alleghaniensis, and Picea mariana. Scattered shrubs include Sorbus americana, Sorbus decora, Amelanchier bartramiana, Ilex mucronata (= Nemopanthus mucronatus), and Vaccinium myrtilloides. Particularly characteristic herbs are boreal/montane species such as Oxalis montana (= Oxalis acetosella), Clintonia borealis, Linnaea borealis, Coptis trifolia (= Coptis groenlandica), Huperzia lucidula, Dryopteris campyloptera, and Gaultheria hispidula. More widespread associated herbs include Trientalis borealis, Maianthemum canadense, Cornus canadensis, and the ferns Dryopteris intermedia and Phegopteris connectilis (= Thelypteris phegopteris). Bryophytes include Pleurozium schreberi, Hylocomium splendens, Bazzania trilobata, Dicranum scoparium, Hypnum curvifolium, and Ptilium crista-castrensis.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Abies balsamea G4 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Picea rubens G4 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Abies balsamea G4 Needle-leaved tree Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Sorbus americana G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Viburnum lantanoides G4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Clintonia borealis G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Maianthemum canadense G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Oxalis montana G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Dryopteris campyloptera G4 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Bazzania trilobata G4 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: These are red spruce - balsam fir forests in moist upland environments of the northern Appalachian Mountains, northern Maine, and adjacent Canada, forming the matrix forest of elevations between 670 and 1070 m (2200-3500 feet), patchy at lower and higher elevations. They occur on well-drained, strongly podzolized, nutrient-poor, usually shallow soils in areas where high-elevation clouds and fog or other microsite conditions provide a continuously moist environment. Through much of its range in the Northeast, this forest is strictly montane; however, north of the 45th parallel it occurs in cool lower-elevation settings as well. It occurs on gentle to steep slopes, north-, east- or west-facing.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: High winds and associated windthrow are probably the dominant disturbance factors. Over time this creates old-growth stands with mixed age classes and abundant decaying woody material. Associated tree species are generally short-lived, disturbance-adapted species which colonize light gaps created by windthrow, extensive blowdowns, or (in some cases) old logging roads.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): Northern Appalachian Planning Team
Element Description Edition Date: 26Nov1997
Element Description Author(s): Northern Appalachian Planning Team

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Fincher, J. M. 1991. The relationship of soil-site factors to forest plant communities in the Green Mountain and White Mountain national forests. M.S. thesis, University of New Hampshire, Concord. 163 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.

  • Heimburger, C. C. 1934. Forest type studies in the Adirondack region. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station Memorandum 165:1-122.

  • Leak, W. B., and R. E. Graber. 1974. Forest vegetation related to elevation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Research Paper NE-299. USDA Forest Service, Northeast Forest Experiment Station, Upper Darby, PA. 7 pp.

  • Leopold, D. J., C. Reschke, and D. S. Smith. 1988. Old-growth forests of Adirondack Park, New York. Natural Areas Journal 8:166-189.

  • Rawinski, T. 1984a. Natural community description abstract - southern New England calcareous seepage swamp. Unpublished report. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA. 6 pp.

  • 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.

  • Roman, J. R. 1980. Vegetation-environment relationships in virgin, middle elevation forests in the Adirondack Mountains, New York. Ph.D. dissertation, State University of New York, Syracuse. 476 pp.

  • Royte, J. L., D. D. Sperduto, and J. P. Lortie. 1996. Botanical reconnaissance of Nancy Brook Research Natural Area. General Technical Report NE-216. USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Radnor, PA. 23 pp.

  • 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.

  • Swain, P. C., and J. B. Kearsley. 2014. Classification of the natural communities of Massachusetts. Version 2.0. Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Westborough, MA. [http://www.mass.gov/nhesp/http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/natural-heritage/natural-communities/classification-of-natural-communities.html]

  • 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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