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Scientific Name: Laurentian-Acadian Alkaline Fen
Unique Identifier: CES201.585

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Summary: These fens, distributed across glaciated eastern and central North America, develop in open basins where bedrock or other substrate influence creates circumneutral to calcareous conditions. They are most abundant in areas of limestone bedrock, and widely scattered in areas where calcareous substrates are scarce. Shore fens, which are peatlands that are occasionally flooded along stream and lakeshores, are also included here because flooding tends to create moderately alkaline conditions. The vegetation may be graminoid-dominated, shrub-dominated, or a patchwork of the two; Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda is a common diagnostic shrub. The herbaceous flora is usually species-rich and includes calciphilic graminoids and forbs. Sphagnum dominates the substrate in many sites though in Michigan a patchy to continuous carpet of brown mosses is more typical; Campylium stellatum is an indicator bryophyte. The edge of the basin may be shallow to deep peat over a sloping substrate, where seepage waters provide nutrients.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: Need to clarify the conceptual boundaries between this and the boreal fens in central and eastern Canada. Alkaline wooded swamps, some of which have fen-like characteristics, are treated under Laurentian-Acadian Alkaline Conifer-Hardwood Swamp (CES201.575).

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES103.872 Western Canadian Boreal Shrub-Sedge Rich and Alkaline Fen
CES201.575 Laurentian-Acadian Alkaline Conifer-Hardwood Swamp
CES202.702 North-Central Interior Shrub-Graminoid Alkaline Fen

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL002383 Carex lasiocarpa - Calamagrostis spp. - (Eleocharis rostellata) Fen
CEGL002494 Betula pumila / Chamaedaphne calyculata / Carex lasiocarpa Fen
CEGL002495 Betula pumila - Dasiphora fruticosa / Carex lasiocarpa - Trichophorum alpinum Fen
CEGL002496 Carex lasiocarpa - Trichophorum cespitosum - Rhynchospora capillacea / Andromeda polifolia Fen
CEGL002500 Carex lasiocarpa - Carex buxbaumii - Trichophorum cespitosum Boreal Fen
CEGL005193 Thuja occidentalis - (Myrica gale) / Trichophorum alpinum / Drepanocladus spp. Fen
CEGL005227 Betula pumila - Alnus incana - Salix spp. / Chamaedaphne calyculata Fen
CEGL005228 Chamaedaphne calyculata - Myrica gale / Carex lasiocarpa Fen
CEGL005229 Carex lasiocarpa - (Carex rostrata) - Equisetum fluviatile Fen
CEGL006068 Myrica gale - Dasiphora fruticosa / Carex lasiocarpa - Cladium mariscoides Fen
CEGL006326 Dasiphora fruticosa / Carex (sterilis, hystericina, flava) Fen
CEGL006331 Carex (interior, hystericina, flava) - Trichophorum alpinum / Campylium stellatum Fen
CEGL006507 Thuja occidentalis - Abies balsamea / Ledum groenlandicum / Carex trisperma Swamp Woodland
CEGL006525 Dasiphora fruticosa / Carex lasiocarpa / Campylium stellatum Fen
CEGL006583 Prunus virginiana - Acer spicatum - Ribes triste / Angelica atropurpurea - Heracleum maximum Seepage Shrubland


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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Organic Peat (>40 cm)  
Mesotrophic Water  
Alkaline Water  
Circumneutral Water  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Shrubland (Shrub-dominated)  
Extensive Wet Flat  
Broad-Leaved Shrub  
Shallow (<15 cm) Water  
Saturated Soil  
Moderate (100-500 yrs) Persistence  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Calephelis muticum
  (Swamp Metalmark)
Carex heleonastes ssp. heleonastes
  (Hudson Bay Sedge)
Carex schweinitzii
  (Schweinitz's Sedge)
Catinella exile
  (Pleistocene Catinella)
Glyptemys muhlenbergii
  (Bog Turtle)
G2G3 LT, SAT: Listed threatened,listed threatened because of similar appearance (new)
Oligoneuron houghtonii
  (Houghton's Goldenrod)
G3 LT: Listed threatened
Platanthera leucophaea
  (Eastern Prairie White-fringed Orchid)
G2G3 LT: Listed threatened
Poa paludigena
  (Bog Bluegrass)
Polemonium occidentale ssp. lacustre
  (Western Jacob's-ladder)
Trigonopeltastes floridana
  (Scrub Palmetto Flower Scarab Beetle)
Trollius laxus ssp. laxus
  (Spreading Globeflower)

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    
Myrica gale G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda T5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Lobelia kalmii G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Platanthera leucophaea G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
Polemonium occidentale ssp. lacustre T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
Sarracenia purpurea var. purpurea T4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
Carex livida G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Cladium mariscoides G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Trichophorum alpinum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
Calephelis muticum
  (Swamp Metalmark)
Catinella exile
  (Pleistocene Catinella)
Glyptemys muhlenbergii
  (Bog Turtle)
G2G3 LT, SAT: Listed threatened,listed threatened because of similar appearance (new)    
Lycaena dorcas
  (Dorcas Copper)
Trigonopeltastes floridana
  (Scrub Palmetto Flower Scarab Beetle)

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NY, PApotentially occurs, VT, WI
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: NB
Global Range: Scattered locations from New England and adjacent Canada west to the Great Lakes and northern Minnesota.

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

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
47 Superior Mixed Forest Confident or certain
48 Great Lakes Confident or certain
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 Predicted or probable

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
41 Northern Lake Country Confident or certain
50 Central Great Lakes Uplands Confident or certain
51 Great Lakes Plains Confident or certain
63 Finger Lakes Confident or certain
64 Northeastern Highlands Confident or certain
65 Connecticut River Basin and Highlands Predicted or probable
66 The North Woods Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9198

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 14Jan2014
Element Description Author(s): S.C. Gawler and J. Drake

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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  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • Kost, M. A., D. A. Albert, J. G. Cohen, B. S. Slaughter, R. K. Schillo, C. R. Weber, and K. A. Chapman. 2007. Natural communities of Michigan: Classification and description. Report No. 2007-21, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing. 314 pp. []

  • Schwintzer, C. R., and T. J. Tomberlin. 1982. Chemical and physical characteristics of shallow ground waters in northern Michigan bogs, swamps, and fens. American Journal of Botany 69:1231-1239.

  • 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.

  • 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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Version 7.1 (2 February 2009)
Data last updated: March 2019