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Classification
Scientific Name: Southern Appalachian Northern Hardwood Forest
Unique Identifier: CES202.029

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Summary: This ecological system consists of hardwood forests of the higher elevation zones of the Southern Appalachians, generally above 1372 m (4500 feet) elevation within its primary range. Included are classic northern hardwood forests, dominated by various combinations of mesophytic hardwoods, which interfinger with high-elevation oak forests downslope or on more exposed aspects. The combination of elevation and aspect provides habitat for this system. Included in this system are limited areas locally known as "beech gaps" and "boulderfields." Stands are dominated by various combinations of Appalachian mesophytic trees, including Acer saccharum, Aesculus flava, Betula alleghaniensis, Fagus grandifolia, and Tsuga canadensis. In addition, Prunus serotina and Tilia americana var. heterophylla are occasionally abundant. Quercus rubra may be present but is not dominant. In Kentucky, this system is of extremely limited extent, being restricted to areas on Black Mountain (the highest mountain in the state) above about 915-1100 m (3000-3600 feet) elevation. Black Mountain is apparently higher in elevation than adjacent areas in Tennessee and Virginia.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system does not include high-elevation Quercus rubra associations, which are placed in related Central and Southern Appalachian Montane Oak Forest (CES202.596). Even though they may occur in the same elevational zone as the mesophytic northern hardwood forests, they occupy a different habitat (drier and more exposed aspects), and comprise a different set of plant associations. They differ from the mesophytic northern hardwood forests in the dominance of oaks and the probable importance of fire as a process. The border of this system with adjacent systems is usually gradational. The transition to Central and Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Forest (CES202.028) that often adjoins at higher elevation is marked by a gradual shift in canopy dominance from hardwoods to conifers. The transition to lower elevation hardwood forest systems is similarly marked by a gradual turnover of dominant trees but may be more subtle because more species are shared. The transition to Southern and Central Appalachian Cove Forest (CES202.373) is particularly gradual, being marked mainly by the addition of species without loss of species. The non-forested systems that occur in the same elevational zone may have transition zones of open woody vegetation, though some have sharp borders. In relatively undisturbed stands, the canopy composition and structure are the best way to determine the boundary of this system.

This system is similar to the northern hardwood forests of the northeastern U.S., i.e., Laurentian-Acadian Northern Hardwood Forest (CES201.564), but differs in having a southern mountain climate (shorter winters, less extreme cold temperatures, shorter summer days), lacking a history of glaciation, and in having a flora and fauna with many Southern Appalachian endemics. A few characteristic dominants of the northern hardwoods are lacking, including Betula papyrifera and Populus tremuloides. It differs from Appalachian (Hemlock)-Northern Hardwood Forest (CES202.593) in its more montane setting and its flora and fauna having many Southern Appalachian endemics. The northern hardwoods in the Ridge and Valley are primarily included in CES202.593. The northern boundary of this system follows a gradual northward transition through central and northern Virginia.


Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES202.593 Appalachian (Hemlock)-Northern Hardwood Forest
CES202.596 Central and Southern Appalachian Montane Oak Forest
CES202.886 Southern Appalachian Oak Forest


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL003819 Rhododendron maximum Montane Ruderal Thicket
CEGL004417 Betula alleghaniensis - Acer saccharum - Aesculus flava / Acer pensylvanicum / Trillium undulatum Forest
CEGL004973 Aesculus flava - Betula alleghaniensis - Acer saccharum / Caulophyllum thalictroides - Actaea podocarpa Forest
CEGL006124 Betula alleghaniensis / Ribes glandulosum / Polypodium appalachianum Forest
CEGL006130 Fagus grandifolia / Carex pensylvanica - Ageratina altissima var. roanensis Forest
CEGL007285 Betula alleghaniensis - Fagus grandifolia / Viburnum lantanoides / Eurybia chlorolepis - Dryopteris intermedia Forest
CEGL007861 Betula alleghaniensis - (Tsuga canadensis) / Rhododendron maximum / (Leucothoe fontanesiana) Forest



Classifiers

Land Cover Class: Forest and Woodland
Spatial Pattern: Large patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: Yes
Wetland: No
Isolated Wetland: No

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Montane  
Broad-Leaved Tree  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Aconitum reclinatum
  (White Monkshood)
G3  
Betula uber
  (Virginia Roundleaf Birch)
G1Q LT: Listed threatened
Brachoria insolita
  (a millipede)
G1  
Brachypanorpa jeffersoni
  (Jefferson's Short-nosed Scorpionfly)
G2  
Canis rufus
  (Red Wolf)
G1Q LE, XN: Listed endangered, nonessential experimental population
Cardamine clematitis
  (Small Mountain Bittercress)
G3  
Cardamine flagellifera
  (Blue Ridge Bittercress)
G3  
Coreopsis latifolia
  (Broadleaf Tickseed)
G3  
Desmognathus santeetlah
  (Santeetlah Dusky Salamander)
G3G4Q  
Diervilla rivularis
  (Mountain Bush-honeysuckle)
G3  
Escaryus cryptorobius
  (Montane Centipede)
G2  
Escaryus orestes
  (Whitetop Mountain Centipede)
G1G2  
Frullania appalachiana
  (a liverwort)
G1?  
Gentiana austromontana
  (Appalachian Gentian)
G3  
Geum geniculatum
  (Bent Avens)
G2  
Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus
  (Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2 LE: Listed endangered
Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus
  (Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2  
Glyceria nubigena
  (Smoky Mountains Mannagrass)
G2G3  
Gymnocarpium appalachianum
  (Appalachian Oak Fern)
G3  
Hydrastis canadensis
  (Goldenseal)
G3G4  
Hypericum graveolens
  (Mountain St. John's-wort)
G3  
Hypericum mitchellianum
  (Blue Ridge St. John's-wort)
G3  
Ilex collina
  (Long-stalk Holly)
G3  
Melanoplus acrophilus acrophilus
  (a spur-throat grasshopper)
G2G3T2T3  
Melanoplus cherokee
  (Cherokee Melanoplus)
G1G3  
Melanoplus divergens
  (Divergent Melanoplus)
G2G3  
Metzgeria fruticulosa
  (Bluish Veilwort)
G2Q  
Microtus chrotorrhinus carolinensis
  (Southern Rock Vole)
G4T3  
Panax quinquefolius
  (American Ginseng)
G3G4  
Plethodon hubrichti
  (Peaks of Otter Salamander)
G2G3  
Plethodon punctatus
  (White-spotted Salamander)
G3  
Plethodon shenandoah
  (Shenandoah Salamander)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Plethodon welleri
  (Weller's Salamander)
G3  
Polymnia laevigata
  (Tennessee Leafcup)
G3  
Prenanthes roanensis
  (Roan Mountain Rattlesnake-root)
G3  
Prosartes maculata
  (Nodding Mandarin)
G3G4  
Puma concolor couguar
  (Eastern Cougar)
G5TXQ  
Rugelia nudicaulis
  (Rugel's Ragwort)
G3  
Scutellaria arguta
  (Hairy Skullcap)
G1?Q  
Scutellaria saxatilis
  (Rock Skullcap)
G3  
Silene ovata
  (Ovate Catchfly)
G3  
Solidago lancifolia
  (Broadleaf Goldenrod)
G3G4Q  
Sorex palustris punctulatus
  (Southern Water Shrew)
G5T3  
Stachys clingmanii
  (Clingman's Hedge-nettle)
G2  
Trechus luculentus luculentus
  (Bright Ground Beetle)
GHTH  
Trechus luculentus unicoi
  (Unicoi Mountains Ground Beetle)
GHTH  
Trillium simile
  (Jeweled Wakerobin)
G3  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Acer pensylvanicum G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Acer saccharum G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Acer spicatum G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Betula alleghaniensis G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Fagus grandifolia G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Quercus rubra G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Tsuga canadensis G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Aesculus flava G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Ilex montana G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Rhododendron maximum G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Geum geniculatum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Scutellaria arguta G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Stachys clingmanii G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Glyceria nubigena G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Frullania appalachiana G1 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 


Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
eristic
Exotic
Accipiter striatus
  (Sharp-shinned Hawk)
G5      
Aegolius acadicus
  (Northern Saw-whet Owl)
G5      
Anaplectoides brunneomedia
  (Brown-lined Dart Moth)
G4      
Appalachioria eutypa ethotela
  (Hungry Mother Millipede)
GNRTNR      
Blarina brevicauda
  (Northern Short-tailed Shrew)
G5      
Brachoria insolita
  (a millipede)
G1      
Brachypanorpa jeffersoni
  (Jefferson's Short-nosed Scorpionfly)
G2      
Canis rufus
  (Red Wolf)
G1Q LE, XN: Listed endangered, nonessential experimental population    
Crotalus horridus
  (Timber Rattlesnake)
G4      
Desmognathus carolinensis
  (Carolina Mountain Dusky Salamander)
G4      
Desmognathus santeetlah
  (Santeetlah Dusky Salamander)
G3G4Q      
Erora laeta
  (Early Hairstreak)
GU      
Escaryus cryptorobius
  (Montane Centipede)
G2      
Escaryus orestes
  (Whitetop Mountain Centipede)
G1G2      
Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus
  (Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2 LE: Listed endangered    
Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus
  (Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2      
Lepus americanus
  (Snowshoe Hare)
G5      
Macaria subcessaria
  (Barred Itame)
G5      
Melanoplus acrophilus acrophilus
  (a spur-throat grasshopper)
G2G3T2T3      
Melanoplus cherokee
  (Cherokee Melanoplus)
G1G3      
Melanoplus divergens
  (Divergent Melanoplus)
G2G3      
Mesomphix rugeli
  (Wrinkled Button)
G4      
Microtus chrotorrhinus carolinensis
  (Southern Rock Vole)
G4T3      
Microtus pinetorum
  (Woodland Vole)
G5      
Neotoma floridana haematoreia
  (Southern Appalachian Woodrat)
G5T4Q      
Opheodrys vernalis
  (Smooth Greensnake)
G5      
Parascalops breweri
  (Hairy-tailed Mole)
G5      
Phyciodes batesii
  (Tawny Crescent)
G5      
Plestiodon inexpectatus
  (Southeastern Five-lined Skink)
G5      
Plethodon dorsalis
  (Northern Zigzag Salamander)
G5      
Plethodon hubrichti
  (Peaks of Otter Salamander)
G2G3      
Plethodon punctatus
  (White-spotted Salamander)
G3      
Plethodon serratus
  (Southern Red-backed Salamander)
G5      
Plethodon shenandoah
  (Shenandoah Salamander)
G1 LE: Listed endangered    
Plethodon teyahalee
  (Southern Appalachian Salamander)
G4      
Plethodon wehrlei
  (Wehrle's Salamander)
G4      
Plethodon welleri
  (Weller's Salamander)
G3      
Plethodon yonahlossee
  (Yonahlossee Salamander)
G4      
Poecile atricapillus
  (Black-capped Chickadee)
G5      
Polygonia progne
  (Gray Comma)
G5      
Psectrotarsia hebardi
  (Hebard's Noctuid Moth)
GU      
Puma concolor couguar
  (Eastern Cougar)
G5TXQ      
Setophaga caerulescens
  (Black-throated Blue Warbler)
G5      
Sorex palustris punctulatus
  (Southern Water Shrew)
G5T3      
Speyeria atlantis
  (Atlantis Fritillary)
G5      
Sphyrapicus varius
  (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker)
G5      
Synanthedon castaneae
  (Chestnut Clearwing Moth)
G3G5      
Trechus luculentus luculentus
  (Bright Ground Beetle)
GHTH      
Trechus luculentus unicoi
  (Unicoi Mountains Ground Beetle)
GHTH      
Virginia valeriae valeriae
  (Eastern Earthsnake)
G5T5      
Vitrinizonites latissimus
  (Glassy Grapeskin)
G4      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: GA, KY, NC, TN, VA
Global Range: This system is primarily found in the Southern Blue Ridge, where it ranges from northwestern Georgia, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee northward to southern Virginia. In Kentucky, this system is restricted to the Cumberland Mountains in the extreme southeastern corner of that state.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
202-Central Interior and Appalachian C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
50 Cumberlands and Southern Ridge and Valley Confident or certain
51 Southern Blue Ridge Confident or certain
59 Central Appalachian Forest Predicted or probable

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
53 Appalachia Confident or certain
57 Southern Appalachia Confident or certain
60 Chesapeake Bay Never was there
61 Northern Appalachia Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 4115
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1309
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2309

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 28Mar2014
Element Description Author(s): M. Schafale, R. Evans, M. Pyne and S. Gawler

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


References
  • Comer, P., D. Faber-Langendoen, R. Evans, S. Gawler, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, K. Snow, J. Teague, and R. White. 2003-present. Ecological systems of the United States: A working classification of U.S. terrestrial systems. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.

  • Evans, M., B. Yahn, and M. Hines. 2009. Natural communities of Kentucky 2009. Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, Frankfort, KY. 22 pp.

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

  • Lohman, M. L., and A. J. Watson. 1943. Identity and host relations of Nectria species associated with disease of hardwoods in the eastern states. Lloydia 6:77-108.

  • 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.


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