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Classification
Scientific Name: Central and Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Forest
Unique Identifier: CES202.028

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Summary: This system consists of forests in the highest elevation zone of the Blue Ridge and parts of the Central Appalachians, generally dominated by Picea rubens, Abies fraseri, or by a mixture of spruce and fir. Abies fraseri is the constituent fir from Mount Rogers in Virginia southward. Examples occur above 1676 m (5500 feet) in the Southern Blue Ridge, but as low as 975 m (3200 feet) at the northern range in West Virginia, and may range up to the highest peaks. Elevation and orographic effects make the climate cool and wet, with heavy moisture input from fog as well as high rainfall. Strong winds, extreme cold, rime ice, and other extreme weather are periodically important.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: The border of this system with adjacent systems is often gradational. The non-forested systems that occur in the same elevational zone may have transition zones of open woody vegetation, though some have sharp borders. The transition to Southern Appalachian Northern Hardwood Forest (CES202.029) or other systems that adjoin at lower elevations is marked by a gradual shift in canopy dominance from conifers to hardwoods. 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 spruce-fir systems of the northern Appalachians and the boreal forests but differs in having less frequent natural fire, having southern seasonal dynamics (shorter winters, less extreme cold temperatures, lack of long summer days), lacking a history of glaciation, and in a flora and fauna that has southern Appalachian endemics and lacks some characteristic northern species. High-elevation spruce-fir in West Virginia is placed in this system because its location well below the glacial boundary and presence of species of more southern affinity (e.g., Rhododendron maximum and Vaccinium erythrocarpum) differentiate it from the northern Appalachian system.


Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES201.566 Acadian-Appalachian Montane Spruce-Fir Forest


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL003893 Rubus canadensis - (Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus) / Athyrium filix-femina - Solidago glomerata Shrubland
CEGL004983 Picea rubens - (Betula alleghaniensis, Aesculus flava) / Rhododendron (maximum, catawbiense) Forest
CEGL006029 Picea rubens - Tsuga canadensis - Fagus grandifolia / Dryopteris intermedia Forest
CEGL006049 Abies fraseri / Viburnum lantanoides / Dryopteris campyloptera - Oxalis montana / Hylocomium splendens Forest
CEGL006152 Picea rubens - (Tsuga canadensis) / Rhododendron maximum Forest
CEGL006193 Chrysosplenium americanum Seepage Meadow
CEGL006254 Picea rubens / Kalmia latifolia - Menziesia pilosa Woodland
CEGL006256 Picea rubens - (Betula alleghaniensis, Aesculus flava) / Viburnum lantanoides / Solidago glomerata Forest
CEGL006308 Abies fraseri / (Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron carolinianum) Forest
CEGL006597 Carex scabrata - Viola cucullata / Plagiomnium ciliare Seepage Meadow
CEGL007128 Picea rubens / Ribes glandulosum Forest
CEGL007130 Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / (Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron maximum) Forest
CEGL007131 Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / Vaccinium erythrocarpum / Dryopteris campyloptera / Hylocomium splendens Forest
CEGL007293 (Prunus pensylvanica, Sorbus americana) - Rubus spp. Shrubland
CEGL008501 Picea rubens / Betula alleghaniensis / Bazzania trilobata 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  
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  
Needle-Leaved Tree  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Abies fraseri
  (Fraser Fir)
G2  
Bazzania nudicaulis
  (a liverwort)
G2G3  
Brachydontium trichodes
  (Peak Moss)
G2G4  
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  
Carex misera
  (Wretched Sedge)
G3  
Cleidogona lachesis
  (a millipede)
G2  
Desmognathus santeetlah
  (Santeetlah Dusky Salamander)
G3G4Q  
Desmognathus wrighti
  (Southern Pygmy Salamander)
G3  
Diplophyllum apiculatum var. taxifolioides
  (a liverwort)
G5T2Q  
Diplophyllum obtusatum
  (Blunted Earwort)
G2?  
Dixioria pela
  (a millipede)
G2  
Frullania appalachiana
  (a liverwort)
G1?  
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  
Ilex collina
  (Long-stalk Holly)
G3  
Leptodontium excelsum
  (Grandfather Mountain Leptodontium)
G2  
Leptohymenium sharpii
  (Mount Leconte Moss)
G1  
Macaria fraserata
  (Fraser Fir Geometrid Moth)
GHQ  
Marsupella emarginata var. latiloba
  (a liverwort)
G5T1T2  
Metzgeria fruticulosa
  (Bluish Veilwort)
G2Q  
Metzgeria furcata var. setigera
  (a liverwort)
G5T1  
Microhexura montivaga
  (Spruce-fir Moss Spider)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Microtus chrotorrhinus carolinensis
  (Southern Rock Vole)
G4T3  
Nesticus silvanus
  (a cave cobweb spider)
G2?  
Plagiochila austinii
  (a liverwort)
G3  
Plagiochila caduciloba
  (Gorge Leafy Liverwort)
G3  
Plagiochila sharpii
  (Sharp's Leafy Liverwort)
G2G4  
Plagiochila sullivantii var. sullivantii
  (a liverwort)
G2T2  
Plethodon nettingi
  (Cheat Mountain Salamander)
G2G3 LT: Listed threatened
Plethodon welleri
  (Weller's Salamander)
G3  
Polytrichum appalachianum
  (Appalachian Polytrichum Moss)
G3  
Prenanthes roanensis
  (Roan Mountain Rattlesnake-root)
G3  
Puma concolor couguar
  (Eastern Cougar)
G5TXQ  
Rugelia nudicaulis
  (Rugel's Ragwort)
G3  
Solidago lancifolia
  (Broadleaf Goldenrod)
G3G4Q  
Sorex palustris punctulatus
  (Southern Water Shrew)
G5T3  
Sphenolobopsis pearsonii
  (Horsehair Threadwort)
G2?  
Stachys clingmanii
  (Clingman's Hedge-nettle)
G2  
Trechus balsamensis
  (a carabid beetle)
GH  
Trechus carolinae
  (a carabid beetle)
GH  
Trechus luculentus luculentus
  (Bright Ground Beetle)
GHTH  
Trechus mitchellensis
  (Mitchell's Ground Beetle)
GH  
Trechus roanicus
  (Roan Mountain Ground Beetle)
GH  
Trechus rosenbergi
  (Rosenberg's Ground Beetle)
GH  
Trechus subtilis
  (Fine Ground Beetle)
GH  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Abies fraseri G2 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Picea rubens G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Rubus canadensis G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Sorbus americana G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Vaccinium erythrocarpum G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Viburnum lantanoides G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Geum geniculatum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Stachys clingmanii G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Glyceria nubigena G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Bazzania nudicaulis G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Frullania appalachiana G1 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Plagiochila caduciloba G3 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Plagiochila sullivantii var. sullivantii T2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Sphenolobopsis pearsonii G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Leptodontium excelsum G2 Moss Nonvascular      
 
 
Leptohymenium sharpii G1 Moss Nonvascular      
 
 


Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
eristic
Exotic
Aegolius acadicus
  (Northern Saw-whet Owl)
G5      
Amaurobius borealis
  (Boreal Laceweaver)
G5      
Anaplectoides brunneomedia
  (Brown-lined Dart Moth)
G4      
Brachypanorpa jeffersoni
  (Jefferson's Short-nosed Scorpionfly)
G2      
Canis rufus
  (Red Wolf)
G1Q LE, XN: Listed endangered, nonessential experimental population    
Catharus guttatus
  (Hermit Thrush)
G5      
Catharus ustulatus
  (Swainson's Thrush)
G5      
Certhia americana
  (Brown Creeper)
G5      
Clastoptera arborina
  (Red Cedar Spittlebug)
G5      
Cleidogona lachesis
  (a millipede)
G2      
Contopus cooperi
  (Olive-sided Flycatcher)
G4      
Desmognathus carolinensis
  (Carolina Mountain Dusky Salamander)
G4      
Desmognathus santeetlah
  (Santeetlah Dusky Salamander)
G3G4Q      
Desmognathus wrighti
  (Southern Pygmy Salamander)
G3      
Dixioria pela
  (a millipede)
G2      
Empidonax alnorum
  (Alder Flycatcher)
G5      
Empidonax flaviventris
  (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher)
G5      
Eurycea longicauda
  (Longtail Salamander)
G5      
Gazoryctra sciophanes
  (a ghost moth)
GU      
Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus
  (Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2 LE: Listed endangered    
Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus
  (Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2      
Glaucomys sabrinus
  (Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5      
Haemorhous purpureus
  (Purple Finch)
G5      
Loxia curvirostra
  (Red Crossbill)
G5      
Macaria fraserata
  (Fraser Fir Geometrid Moth)
GHQ      
Microhexura montivaga
  (Spruce-fir Moss Spider)
G1 LE: Listed endangered    
Microtus chrotorrhinus carolinensis
  (Southern Rock Vole)
G4T3      
Nesticus silvanus
  (a cave cobweb spider)
G2?      
Plethodon jordani
  (Red-cheeked Salamander)
G4      
Plethodon nettingi
  (Cheat Mountain Salamander)
G2G3 LT: Listed threatened    
Plethodon wehrlei
  (Wehrle's Salamander)
G4      
Plethodon welleri
  (Weller's Salamander)
G3      
Poecile atricapillus
  (Black-capped Chickadee)
G5      
Polygonia progne
  (Gray Comma)
G5      
Puma concolor couguar
  (Eastern Cougar)
G5TXQ      
Regulus satrapa
  (Golden-crowned Kinglet)
G5      
Setophaga magnolia
  (Magnolia Warbler)
G5      
Sitta canadensis
  (Red-breasted Nuthatch)
G5      
Sorex palustris punctulatus
  (Southern Water Shrew)
G5T3      
Speyeria atlantis
  (Atlantis Fritillary)
G5      
Trechus balsamensis
  (a carabid beetle)
GH      
Trechus carolinae
  (a carabid beetle)
GH      
Trechus luculentus luculentus
  (Bright Ground Beetle)
GHTH      
Trechus mitchellensis
  (Mitchell's Ground Beetle)
GH      
Trechus roanicus
  (Roan Mountain Ground Beetle)
GH      
Trechus rosenbergi
  (Rosenberg's Ground Beetle)
GH      
Trechus subtilis
  (Fine Ground Beetle)
GH      
Troglodytes hiemalis
  (Winter Wren)
G5      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: NC, TN, VA, WV
Global Range: This system ranges from the Balsam Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee northward to the mountains of western Virginia and eastern West Virginia.

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
51 Southern Blue Ridge Confident or certain
59 Central Appalachian Forest Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
53 Appalachia Never was there
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): 4253
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1350
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2350

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 14Jan2014
Element Description Author(s): M. Schafale, R. Evans, S.C. Gawler and M. Pyne

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.

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

  • Korstian, C. F. 1937. Perpetuation of spruce on cut-over and burned lands in the higher southern Appalachian Mountains. Ecological Monographs 7:125-167.

  • 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.

  • Nicholas, N. S., and S. M. Zedaker. 1989. Ice damage in spruce-fir forests of the Black Mountains, North Carolina. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 19:1487-1491.

  • Pyle, C., and M. P. Schafale. 1985. History of disturbance in spruce-fir forests of the SARRMC intensive study sites - Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, Black Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains. SARRMC - Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Ecosystem Assessment Program. 67 pp.

  • 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, Mike P. Personal communication. Ecologist, North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • TDNH [Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage]. No date. Unpublished data. Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage, Nashville, TN.

  • USFS [U.S. Forest Service]. 1973. Silvicultural systems for the major forest systems of the United States. Pages 71-72 in: Agricultural Handbook No. 445. USDA Forest Service, Division of Timber Management Research, Washington, DC. 114 pp.

  • USFS [U.S. Forest Service]. 1997. Montane and allied spruce and spruce-fir forest old-growth forest community. Pages 100-102 in: Guidance for conserving and restoring old-growth forest communities in national forests in the Southern Region: Report of the Region 8 Old-Growth Team. Forestry Report R8-FR 62. USDA Forest Service, Southern Region, Atlanta, GA. 120 pp.

  • White, P. S., E. R. Buckner, J. D. Pittillo, and C. V. Cogbill. 1993. High-elevation forests: Spruce-fir forests, northern hardwoods forests, and associated communities. Pages 305-337 in: W. H. Martin, S. G. Boyce, and A. C. Echternacht, editors. Biodiversity of the southeastern United States: Upland terrestrial communities. John Wiley and Sons, New York.

  • White, P. S., and C. V. Cogbill. 1992. Spruce-fir forests in eastern North America. Page 3-39 in: C. Eagar and M. B. Adams, editors. Ecology and decline of red spruce in the eastern United States. Springer-Verlag, New York.

  • White, P. S., editor. 1984b. The Southern Appalachian spruce-fir ecosystem: Its biology and threats. Research/Resource Management Report SER-71. USDI National Park Service. 268 pp.

  • Whittaker, R. H. 1956. Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ecological Monographs 26:1-80.


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