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Scientific Name: Northern Appalachian-Acadian Rocky Heath Outcrop
Unique Identifier: CES201.571

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Summary: This outcrop ecological system ranges across New England and adjacent Canada, and southward at higher elevations to northern Pennsylvania, on ridges or summits of resistant acidic bedrock. Throughout most of its range, it occurs at low to mid elevations (600-1000 m, lower on the coast of eastern Maine and the Maritimes). The vegetation is patchy, often a mosaic of woodlands and open glades. Quercus rubra and various conifers, including Pinus strobus and Picea rubens, or (especially near the coast) Picea mariana, are characteristic trees. Low heath shrubs, including Kalmia angustifolia, Vaccinium angustifolium, Gaylussacia baccata, and Aronia melanocarpa (= Photinia melanocarpa), are typically present. Exposure and occasional fire are the major factors in keeping the vegetation relatively open.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system transitions westward and northward into Laurentian Acidic Rocky Outcrop (CES201.019) and southward into Central Appalachian Pine-Oak Rocky Woodland (CES202.600). Where their ranges overlap or abut, this system is distinguished from the latter by the presence of more northern elements such as Picea, Sorbus, Pinus banksiana, etc., and lack of Pinus rigida and Quercus ilicifolia which may be found in the Central Appalachian system. This system overlaps with Laurentian Acidic Rocky Outcrop (CES201.019) only in New York state, where the latter occurs in the St. Lawrence - Champlain ecoregion (an extension of its Great Lakes affinities), and the present type occurs primarily in the Northern Appalachian ecoregion. Northward or at higher elevations, this system is replaced by Acadian-Appalachian Subalpine Woodland and Heath-Krummholz (CES201.568).

Distribution in Southern New England and the Allegheny region of New York and Pennsylvania needs review. Overlap with rocky woodland systems complicates the application of the system concept, as only one non-woodland association is attributed to the type.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES201.019 Laurentian Acidic Rocky Outcrop
CES201.568 Acadian-Appalachian Subalpine Woodland and Heath-Krummholz
CES202.600 Central Appalachian Pine-Oak Rocky Woodland

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL005094 Vaccinium angustifolium - Sorbus americana / Sibbaldiopsis tridentata Dwarf-shrubland
CEGL006010 Pinus resinosa / Gaylussacia baccata - Vaccinium angustifolium Woodland
CEGL006041 Pinus banksiana / Kalmia angustifolia - Vaccinium spp. Woodland
CEGL006053 Picea rubens / Vaccinium angustifolium / Sibbaldiopsis tridentata Woodland
CEGL006134 Quercus rubra - (Quercus montana) / Vaccinium spp. / Deschampsia flexuosa Woodland
CEGL006292 Picea mariana / Kalmia angustifolia Woodland


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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Ridge/Summit/Upper Slope  
Rock Outcrops/Barrens/Glades  
Acidic Soil  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  
Oligotrophic Soil  
Very Shallow Soil  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon >10 cm  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon <10 cm  
Loam Soil Texture  
Sand Soil Texture  
Long Disturbance Interval  
F-Patch/Low Intensity  
W-Landscape/Medium Intensity  
Needle-Leaved Tree  
Broad-Leaved Deciduous Tree  
Broad-Leaved Shrub  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Quercus rubra G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Picea rubens G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Pinus strobus G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Aronia melanocarpa G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Kalmia angustifolia G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Corydalis sempervirens G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Sibbaldiopsis tridentata G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Deschampsia flexuosa G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: MA, ME, NH, NY, PA, VT
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: NB, NS, QC
Global Range: This system is found in New England and adjacent Canada west to the Adirondacks and south to northern Pennsylvania.

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

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
48 Great Lakes Predicted or probable
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
60 Chesapeake Bay Never was there
61 Northern Appalachia Never was there
63 Finger Lakes Confident or certain
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): 5462

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 05Oct2004
Element Description Author(s): S.C. Gawler

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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Data last updated: March 2019