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Scientific Name: Central Interior Calcareous Cliff and Talus
Unique Identifier: CES202.690
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This system is found primarily in non-Appalachian portions of the "central interior division" of the United States. It ranges from the Ouachitas east to the Cumberlands and north into the Western Allegheny Plateau and Lake states. Limestone and dolomite outcrops and talus distinguish this system. Examples range from moist to dry and from sparsely to moderately well-vegetated. Woodland species such as Thuja occidentalis can establish along the ridgetops, on ledges, and talus. Understory species can range from grassland species, such as Andropogon gerardii on drier slopes, to more mesic species in areas with higher moisture and more soil development. Wind and water erosion along with fire are the primary natural dynamics influencing this system. Some associations included here are rocky openings in forest stands, sometimes with moisture present from groundwater seepage. Also included are wet and dry cliffs. The flora of these wetter examples may include (across the broad range of the system) Aconitum noveboracense, Adiantum capillus-veneris, Adoxa moschatellina, Aquilegia canadensis, Asplenium rhizophyllum, Boehmeria cylindrica, Chrysosplenium alternifolium var. sibiricum, Cystopteris bulbifera, Cystopteris bulbifera, Dichanthelium depauperatum, Heuchera americana, Heuchera americana var. hirsuticaulis, Heuchera villosa var. arkansana, Hydrangea arborescens, Impatiens pallida, Lobelia siphilitica, Toxicodendron radicans, and Woodsia obtusa.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: Similar examples in the driftless region of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois should be considered part of Paleozoic Plateau Hemlock-White Pine Driftless Forest (CES202.449).

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES202.356 Southern Interior Calcareous Cliff
CES202.357 Southern Interior Sinkhole Wall
CES202.450 Paleozoic Plateau Rock, Prairie & Woodland
CES202.603 North-Central Appalachian Circumneutral Cliff and Talus

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL002245 Schizachyrium scoparium - Bouteloua curtipendula Alkaline Bluff Grassland
CEGL002291 Central Midwest-Interior Limestone - Dolostone Dry Cliff Sparse Vegetation
CEGL002292 Central Midwest-Interior Limestone - Dolostone Moist Cliff Vegetation
CEGL002308 Central Midwest-Interior Limestone - Dolostone Talus Vegetation
CEGL002315 Midwest Eroding Bluff Sparse Vegetation
CEGL002387 Impatiens pallida - Cystopteris bulbifera - Adoxa moschatellina Algific Talus Rock Vegetation
CEGL002451 Thuja occidentalis Cliff Woodland
CEGL002596 Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea - Pellaea atropurpurea Cliff Woodland
CEGL004078 Schizachyrium scoparium - Sporobolus compositus var. compositus - Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida Wooded Grassland
CEGL004267 Quercus muehlenbergii - (Juniperus virginiana) Unglaciated Bluff Woodland
CEGL004393 Rhus aromatica - Celtis tenuifolia / Carex eburnea Cliff Shrubland
CEGL004395 (Hydrangea arborescens, Toxicodendron radicans) / Heuchera americana - (Dichanthelium depauperatum, Woodsia obtusa) Cliff Shrubland
CEGL004708 Hydrangea arborescens / Impatiens capensis - Heuchera villosa Cliff Shrubland
CEGL004728 Adiantum capillus-veneris - Boehmeria cylindrica - Lobelia siphilitica Cliff Vegetation
CEGL004739 Andropogon gerardii - Chasmanthium latifolium - Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia Riverscour Wet Meadow
CEGL005058 Acer saccharum - Tilia americana - Fraxinus americana / Ostrya virginiana / Geranium robertianum Woodland
CEGL007819 Hydrangea arborescens / Heuchera villosa var. arkansana - Aquilegia canadensis Cliff Shrubland


Land Cover Class: Barren
Spatial Pattern: Small patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: Yes
Wetland: No
Isolated Wetland: No

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Aconitum noveboracense
  (Northern Wild Monkshood)
G3 LT: Listed threatened
Catinella gelida
  (Frigid Ambersnail)
Euchemotrema hubrichti
  (Carinate Pillsnail)
Heuchera villosa var. arkansana
  (Ozark Alumroot)
Pellaea glabella ssp. missouriensis
  (Missouri Cliffbrake)
Polymnia cossatotensis
  (Heartleaf Leafcup)

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Thuja occidentalis G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Hydrangea arborescens G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Heuchera americana G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Cystopteris bulbifera G5 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
Carex eburnea G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Schizachyrium scoparium G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
Agkistrodon contortrix
Catinella gelida
  (Frigid Ambersnail)
Coluber constrictor
  (North American Racer)
Crotalus horridus
  (Timber Rattlesnake)
Euchemotrema hubrichti
  (Carinate Pillsnail)
Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
  (Eastern Milksnake)

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AR, IA, IL, IN, KYpotentially occurs, MI, MN, MO, NY, OH, OK, PA, TN, WI
Global Range: This system is found primarily in non-Appalachian portions of the "central interior division" of the United States, from the Ouachitas east to the Cumberlands and north into the Western Allegheny Plateau and Great Lake states.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
201-Laurentian-Acadian ?: Possible
202-Central Interior and Appalachian C: Confident or certain
205-Eastern Great Plains P: Predicted or probable

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
36 Central Tallgrass Prairie Confident or certain
38 Ozarks Confident or certain
39 Ouachita Mountains Confident or certain
44 Interior Low Plateau Confident or certain
45 North Central Tillplain Confident or certain
46 Prairie-Forest Border Confident or certain
47 Superior Mixed Forest Possible
48 Great Lakes Confident or certain
49 Western Allegheny Plateau Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
41 Northern Lake Country Possible
42 Western Till Plains Predicted or probable
43 Till Plains Predicted or probable
44 Ozark Highlands Confident or certain
47 Appalachia Bluegrass Hills Confident or certain
48 Cumberland Highlands Confident or certain
49 Central Till Plains Predicted or probable
50 Central Great Lakes Uplands Confident or certain
51 Great Lakes Plains Confident or certain
52 Eastern Till Plains Confident or certain
53 Appalachia Confident or certain
57 Southern Appalachia Never was there
59 Northeastern Piedmont Never was there
60 Chesapeake Bay Never was there
61 Northern Appalachia Confident or certain
62 Allegheny Plateau Confident or certain
63 Finger Lakes Confident or certain
64 Northeastern Highlands Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 3148

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 20Aug2015
Element Description Author(s): S. Menard, J. Drake 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).

  • 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.

  • Haig, A. R., U. Matthes, and D. W. Larson. 2000. Effects of natural habitat fragmentation on the species richness, diversity, and composition of cliff vegetation. Canadian Journal of Botany 78(6):786-797.

  • Nelson, P. 2010. The terrestrial natural communities of Missouri. Revised edition. Missouri Natural Areas Committee, Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Conservation, Jefferson City.

  • ONHD [Ohio Natural Heritage Database]. No date. Vegetation classification of Ohio and unpublished data. Ohio Natural Heritage Database, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Columbus.

  • Vanderhorst, Jim. Personal communication. Ecologist, West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Elkins, WV.

  • WDNR [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]. 2015. The ecological landscapes of Wisconsin: An assessment of ecological resources and a guide to planning sustainable management. PUB-SS-1131 2015. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison. []

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Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
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Copyright 2019
Version 7.1 (2 February 2009)
Data last updated: March 2019