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Classification
Scientific Name: Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Sandy Beach
Unique Identifier: CES203.301

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Summary: This ecological system includes sparsely vegetated ocean beaches constituting the outermost zone of coastal vegetation ranging from northern North Carolina (north of Bodie Island) northward to the terminus of extensive sandy coastlines and the beginning of rocky coasts. Examples generally extend seaward from foredunes but may include flats behind breached foredunes. Although these habitats are situated just above the mean high tide limit, they are constantly impacted by waves and may be flooded by high spring tides and storm surges. Constant salt spray and rainwater maintain generally moist conditions. Substrates consist of unconsolidated sand and shell sediments that are constantly shifted by winds and floods. Dynamic disturbance regimes largely limit vegetation to pioneering, salt-tolerant, succulent annuals. Cakile edentula ssp. edentula and Salsola kali are usually most numerous and characteristic. Other scattered associates include Sesuvium maritimum, Polygonum glaucum, Polygonum ramosissimum var. prolificum, Suaeda linearis and Suaeda maritima, and Atriplex cristata.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: In Virginia, this system is distributed along the ocean side of the Eastern Shore (Accomack and Northampton counties) and on Cape Henry and False Cape (City of Virginia Beach).

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES203.064 Central Atlantic Coastal Plain Sandy Beach
CES203.264 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Dune and Swale


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL004400 Cakile edentula ssp. edentula - Chamaesyce polygonifolia Sparse Beach Vegetation
CEGL004406 Sesuvium portulacastrum - Atriplex spp. - Suaeda spp. Sparse Beach Vegetation



Classifiers

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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Coast  
Beach (Substrate)  
Graminoid  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Charadrius melodus melodus
  (Piping Plover)
G3T3  
Charadrius melodus
  (Piping Plover)
G3 LE, LT: Listed endangered, listed threatened
Habroscelimorpha dorsalis dorsalis
  (Eastern Beach Tiger Beetle)
G3G4T2 LT: Listed threatened
Habroscelimorpha dorsalis media
  (White Tiger Beetle)
G3G4T3T4  
Polygonum glaucum
  (Seabeach Knotweed)
G3  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Atriplex cristata G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Cakile edentula ssp. edentula T5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Chamaesyce polygonifolia G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Salsola kali GNR Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Sesuvium maritimum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Sesuvium portulacastrum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Suaeda maritima G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 


Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
eristic
Exotic
Charadrius melodus melodus
  (Piping Plover)
G3T3      
Charadrius melodus
  (Piping Plover)
G3 LE, LT: Listed endangered, listed threatened    
Habroscelimorpha dorsalis dorsalis
  (Eastern Beach Tiger Beetle)
G3G4T2 LT: Listed threatened    
Habroscelimorpha dorsalis media
  (White Tiger Beetle)
G3G4T3T4      
Haematopus palliatus
  (American Oystercatcher)
G5      
Malaclemys terrapin
  (Diamond-backed Terrapin)
G4      
Sternula antillarum
  (Least Tern)
G4      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VA
Global Range: This system ranges from northern North Carolina northward to the northern end of extensive sandy coastlines and the beginning of rocky coasts in southern Maine.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
203-Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
57 Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain Confident or certain
58 Chesapeake Bay Lowlands Confident or certain
62 North Atlantic Coast Confident or certain

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

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 3124

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 06Feb2014
Element Description Author(s): R. Evans

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.

  • Davis, M. B., T. R. Simons, M. J. Groom, J. L. Weaver, and J. R. Cordes. 2001. The breeding status of the American Oystercatcher on the East Coast of North America and breeding success in North Carolina. Waterbirds 24(2):195-202.

  • Defeo, O., A. McLachlan, D. S. Schoeman, T. A. Schlacher, J. Dugan, A. Jones, M. Lastra, and F. Scapini. 2009. Threats to sandy beach ecosystems: A review. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 81:1-12.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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