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Classification
Scientific Name: Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Heathland and Grassland
Unique Identifier: CES203.895
Classification Confidence: 1 - Strong

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Summary: Sandplain grasslands and heathlands of the southern New England / New York coast are areas of graminoid- and shrub-dominated vegetation maintained by periodic fire or other disturbance, as well as exposure to maritime influences. Developing on acidic, nutrient-poor, and very well-drained soils within a few kilometers of the ocean, they may occur as heathlands, grasslands, or support a patchwork of grass and shrub vegetation. Characteristic species include Gaylussacia baccata, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Corema conradii, Amelanchier nantucketensis, Hudsonia ericoides, Hudsonia tomentosa, Vaccinium angustifolium, Deschampsia flexuosa, Schizachyrium scoparium, and Carex pensylvanica. They provide habitat for several rare or uncommon forbs including Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae and Agalinis acuta. They are important habitat for several bird and other animal species including the short-eared owl and regal fritillary, and (along with brushy plains and woodlands) provided habitat for the extinct heath hen.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system includes both the very distinctive Hempstead Plains grasslands of Long Island, New York (which occur a bit further inland than other sites), as well as the maritime heathlands/grasslands of Cape Cod and nearby islands. Grass-dominated and shrub-dominated expressions are separated at the association level; they can occur together and intergrade at some sites. This system is related to dune grasslands but occurs on sandplains, not dunes, and lacks significant amounts of Ammophila breviligulata. In the absence of disturbance (fire, grazing, mowing), coverage by Pinus rigida and Quercus ilicifolia can increase, creating vegetation similar to a pitch pine - scrub oak barren (hence the inclusion of CEGL006315 in the associations list); or in some cases, a tall-shrub community can develop in the absence of fire (CEGL006379). Neither of these associations is core to the concept of this system. Its landscape position and dynamics are sufficiently distinct that it is segregated rather than being treated as a phase or a patch of the coastal pine barrens system.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES203.264 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Dune and Swale
CES203.269 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Pitch Pine Barrens


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL006066 Gaylussacia baccata - Vaccinium angustifolium - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi / Schizachyrium littorale Dwarf-shrubland
CEGL006067 Morella pensylvanica / Schizachyrium littorale - Danthonia spicata Shrub Grassland
CEGL006187 Schizachyrium scoparium - Sorghastrum nutans - Hypoxis hirsuta - Baptisia tinctoria Grassland
CEGL006315 Pinus rigida / Quercus ilicifolia / Morella pensylvanica Woodland
CEGL006372 Quercus stellata - Sassafras albidum / Smilax glauca Woodland
CEGL006379 Amelanchier canadensis - Viburnum spp. - Morella pensylvanica Scrub Forest



Classifiers

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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Shrubland (Shrub-dominated)  
Grassland, Savanna, Steppe (graminoid-dominated)  
Coastal plain  
Glaciated plains  
Sandplains/Glacial Outwash or Flats  
Temperate  
Sand Soil Texture  
Very Short Disturbance Interval  
North Atlantic Coastal Plain  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Salt Spray  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Agalinis acuta
  (Sandplain Gerardia)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Amelanchier nantucketensis
  (Nantucket Shadbush)
G3Q  
Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae
  (Northern Blazingstar)
G5?T3  
Speyeria idalia
  (Regal Fritillary)
G3  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Gaylussacia baccata G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Corema conradii G4 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Hudsonia ericoides G4 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Hudsonia tomentosa G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Vaccinium angustifolium G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae T3 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-
eristic
Exotic
Abagrotis nefascia
  (Coastal Heathland Cutworm Moth)
G4      
Asio flammeus
  (Short-eared Owl)
G5      
Speyeria idalia
  (Regal Fritillary)
G3      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: CTpotentially occurs, MA, NY, RI
Global Range: This system is endemic to a small area ranging from the southern New York coastline north to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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
62 North Atlantic Coast Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
65 Connecticut River Basin and Highlands Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 5275
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1522
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2522

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Authors/Contributors
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).


References
  • Cain, S. A., M. Nelson, and W. McLean. 1937. Andropogonetum Hempsteadi: A Long Island grassland vegetation type. The American Midland Naturalist 18(3):334-350.

  • Chase, T., and K. D. Rothley. 2007. Hierarchical tree classification to find suitable sites for sandplain grasslands and heathlands on Martha's Vineyard Island, Massachusetts. Biological Conservation 136:65-75.

  • Dunwiddie, P. W. 1989. Forest and heath: The shaping of the vegetation on Nantucket Island. Journal of Forest History 33:126-133.

  • Dunwiddie, P. W., K. A. Harper, and B. Zaremba. 1993. Classification and ranking of coastal heathlands and sandplain grasslands in Massachusetts. Final report to the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Boston, MA.

  • Dunwiddie, P. W., R. E. Zaremba, and K. A. Harper. 1996. A classification of coastal heathlands and sandplain grasslands in Massachusetts. Rhodora 98(894):117-145.

  • Dunwiddie, P. W., W. A. Patterson, J. L. Rudnicky, and R. E. Zaremba. 1997. Vegetation management in coastal grasslands on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts: Effects of burning and mowing from 1982-1993. Pages 85-98 in: P. D. Vickery and P. W. Dunwiddie, editors. Grasslands of northeastern North America. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln.

  • Dunwiddie, P. W., and C. Caljouw. 1990. Prescribed burning and mowing of coastal heathlands and grasslands in Massachusetts. Pages 271-275 in: R. S. Sheviak, C. J. Sheviak, and D. J. Leopold, editors. Proceedings of the 15th annual Natural Areas Conference. New York State Museum Bulletin No. 471.

  • Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.

  • 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.

  • Foster, D. R., B. Hall, S. Barry, S. Clayden, and T. Parshall. 2002. Cultural, environmental and historical controls of vegetation patterns and the modern conservation setting on the island of Martha's Vineyard, USA. Journal of Biogeography 29:1382-1400.

  • Harper, R. M. 1912. The Hempstead Plains of Long Island. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 12:277-287.

  • Lundgren, J., B. Hammond, J. Stone, and L. Sneddon. 2000. Vegetation classification and mapping of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Final Draft. The Nature Conservancy, March 2000. 59 pp.

  • MNHESP [Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program]. 2010a. Natural community fact sheet: Sandplain Grassland. Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough, MA. [http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dfg/nhesp/natural-communities-facts/sandplain-grassland-factsheet.pdf]

  • MNHESP [Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program]. 2010b. Natural community fact sheet: Sandplain Heathlands. Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough, MA. [http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dfg/nhesp/natural-communities-facts/sandplain-heathland-commun.pdf]

  • Motzkin, G., and D. R. Foster. 2002. Grasslands, heathlands and shrublands in coastal New England: Historical interpretations and approaches to conservation. Journal of Biogeography 29:1569-1590. [http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/sites/harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/files/publications/pdfs/Motzkin_JBiogeography_2002_Grasslands.pdf]

  • NYNHP [New York Natural Heritage Program]. 2013f. Online conservation guide for Hempstead Plains Grassland. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, NY. [http://www.acris.nynhp.org/guide.php?id=10008] (accessed September 25, 2013).

  • NYNHP [New York Natural Heritage Program]. 2013j. Online conservation guide for Maritime Grassland. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, NY. [http://www.acris.nynhp.org/guide.php?id=10007] (accessed December 2013).

  • NYNHP [New York Natural Heritage Program]. 2013k. Online conservation guide for Maritime Heathland. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, NY. [http://www.acris.nynhp.org/guide.php?id=10006] (accessed December 2013).

  • Neidich, C. 1980. The Hempstead Plains and the birdfoot violet. Long Island Forum 43(6):108-115.

  • Swain, P. C., and J. B. Kearsley. 2014. Classification of the natural communities of Massachusetts. Version 2.0. Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Westborough, MA. [http://www.mass.gov/nhesp/http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/natural-heritage/natural-communities/classification-of-natural-communities.html]


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