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Scientific Name: Northeastern Interior Pine Barrens
Unique Identifier: CES202.590

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Summary: These pine barrens occur on glacial sandplains of the inland regions of the northeastern U.S., with a disjunction to the distinctive till plain shrublands in the Poconos of eastern Pennsylvania. Substrates include outwash plains, stabilized sand dunes, and glacial till. The soils are consequently coarse-textured, acidic, mostly well-drained to xeric, and low in nutrients. Pinus rigida is the usual dominant, and cover may range from closed-canopy forest to (more typically) open woodlands. Quercus rubra, Pinus strobus, and Betula populifolia are common associates. A tall-shrub layer of Quercus ilicifolia and/or Quercus prinoides is commonly present, although portions of some barrens (or occasionally the entire barrens) lack the scrub oak component. A well-developed low-shrub layer is typical, with lowbush Vaccinium spp., Gaylussacia baccata, and Comptonia peregrina characteristic, with Rhododendron canadense characteristic on the slightly more mesic microsites of the Poconos. The system is often a physiognomic patchwork, ranging from nearly closed-canopy forest to open pine woodlands, to scrub oak shrublands, to herbaceous/dwarf-shrub frost pockets. Grassy areas dominated by Schizachyrium scoparium with Lupinus perennis, Lespedeza capitata, and other forbs provide habitat for several rare invertebrates. Small changes in elevation can create pockets with saturated soil, where shrubs such as Corylus americana, Cephalanthus occidentalis, Vaccinium corymbosum, and Alnus spp. form dense cover. These barrens always have a history of recurrent fires, and fire is required to maintain them.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system can include patches, or sometimes larger areas, of mesic pitch pine - shrub vegetation. For instance, Pennsylvania's "mesic till barrens" are somewhat less dry than the typical barrens in this system, but fit otherwise. Elsewhere in these barrens, wet pitch pine pockets can occur in (usually small) topographic depressions.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES201.718 Laurentian Pine-Oak Barrens
CES203.269 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Pitch Pine Barrens

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL005046 Pinus rigida / Vaccinium spp. - Gaylussacia baccata Woodland
CEGL006025 Pinus rigida / Quercus ilicifolia / Lespedeza capitata Woodland
CEGL006157 Pinus rigida - Quercus ilicifolia - Rhododendron canadense Woodland
CEGL006203 Pinus rigida / Quercus ilicifolia / Piptatheropsis pungens Woodland
CEGL006259 Pinus strobus - Pinus resinosa - Pinus rigida Forest
CEGL006290 Pinus rigida - Quercus (velutina, montana) Forest
CEGL006393 Vaccinium angustifolium / Schizachyrium scoparium - Carex lucorum Shrub Grassland


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
Sandplains/Glacial Outwash or Flats  
Oligotrophic Soil  
Acidic Soil  
Sand Soil Texture  
F-Landscape/Medium Intensity  
Pinus rigida  

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
Callophrys irus
  (Frosted Elfin)
Plebejus melissa samuelis
  (Karner Blue)
G5T2 LE: Listed endangered

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Betula populifolia G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Quercus ilicifolia G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Pinus rigida G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Comptonia peregrina G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
Hieracium venosum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Lespedeza capitata G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Lupinus perennis G5 Flowering forb 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-
Atrytonopsis hianna
  (Dusted Skipper)
Callophrys irus
  (Frosted Elfin)
Callophrys niphon
  (Eastern Pine Elfin)
Coluber constrictor
  (North American Racer)
Erynnis persius
  (Persius Duskywing)
Hemileuca maia
  (Eastern Buckmoth)
Hesperia metea
  (Cobweb Skipper)
Heterodon platirhinos
  (Eastern Hog-nosed Snake)
Peromyscus leucopus
  (White-footed Deermouse)
Plebejus melissa samuelis
  (Karner Blue)
G5T2 LE: Listed endangered    
Satyrium edwardsii
  (Edwards' Hairstreak)

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, PA, RI, VT
Global Range: This system is restricted to interior south-central New England; Colchester, Vermont; eastern New York; and the Pennsylvania Poconos.

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
60 High Allegheny Plateau Confident or certain
61 Lower New England / Northern Piedmont Confident or certain
63 Northern Appalachian-Boreal Forest Confident or certain
64 St. Lawrence-Champlain Valley Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
60 Chesapeake Bay Never was there
61 Northern Appalachia Never was there
64 Northeastern Highlands Confident or certain
65 Connecticut River Basin and Highlands Confident or certain
66 The North Woods Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 4257
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1354
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2354

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Element Description Edition Date: 14Jan2014
Element Description Author(s): S.C. Gawler and L.A. Sneddon

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

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  • Gray, V. E., and C. Dawson. 2004. Albany Pine Bush Preserve: A case study using concepts from the limits of acceptable change framework. Pages 145-149 in: General Technical Report NE-326. Proceedings of the 2004 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium, USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station, Newton Square, PA.

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  • Latham, R. E., J. E. Thompson, A. Sugden-Newbery, and P. Stoll. No date. Spatial analysis of vegetation change in a mesic shrubland: Effects of geomorphology, fire history and forest proximity. [in preparation for Landscape Ecology]

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  • Motzkin, G., S. C. Ciccarello, and D. R. Foster. 2002. Frost pockets on a level sand plain: Does variation in microclimate help maintain persistent vegetation patterns? Journal of the Torrey Botanical Club 129:154-163.

  • Motzkin, G., W. A. Patterson, III, and D. R. Foster. 1999. A historical perspective on pitch pine - scrub oak communities in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts. Ecosystems 2:255-273.

  • NatureServe. 2005b. International Ecological Classification Standard: Terrestrial Ecological Classifications. Terrestrial ecological systems of the Northeast Region, U.S. draft legend for Landfire project: Northeast Rapid Assessment Model Zone. NatureServe, Arlington, VA. 61 pp.

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  • Petraitis, P. S., and R. E. Latham. 1999. The importance of scale in testing the origins of alternative community states. Ecology 80:429-442.

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  • Swain, P. C., and J. B. Kearsley. 2011. Classification of the natural communities of Massachusetts. Version 1.4. Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough, MA. []

  • Thompson, J. E. 1995. Interrelationships among vegetation dynamics, fire, surficial geology and topography of the southern Pocono Plateau, Monroe County, Pennsylvania. M.S. thesis, University of Pennsylvania. 159 pp.

  • USFS [U.S. Forest Service]. 2002b. Fire Effects Information System [Online]. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). [] (December 2002).

  • Wibiralske, A. W., R. E. Latham, and A. Johnson. 2004. A biogeochemical analysis of the Pocono till barrens and adjacent hardwood forest underlain by Wisconsinan and Illinoian till in northeastern Pennsylvania. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 34:1819-1832.

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