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Ecological Communities

Appalachian oak-hickory forest

A hardwood forest with more than 60% canopy cover of trees that occurs on well-drained sites, usually on flat hilltops, upper slopes, or south and west facing slopes. Dominant trees include one or more of red oak, white oak, and black oak. Mixed with oaks, are one or more of pignut, shagbark, and sweet pignut hickory. Common associates are white ash, red maple, and hop hornbeam. Small trees include flowering dogwood, witch hazel, shadbush, and choke cherry. Shrubs and groundlayer flora are diverse. Shrubs include maple-leaved viburnum, blueberries, red raspberry, gray dogwood, and beaked hazelnut.

Beech-maple mesic forest

A hardwood forest with sugar maple and beech co-dominant. Found on moist, well-drained soils, on north and east facing slopes, and on gently sloping hilltops of any aspect, this ecological community type rarely occurs in ravines. Common associates are basswood, American elm, white ash, yellow birch, hop hornbeam, and red maple. Characteristic species in the sub-canopy are musclewood, striped maple, witch hazel, hobblebush, and alternate-leaved dogwood. There typically are few herbs and shrubs, but tree seedlings may be abundant. There are many spring ephemerals.

Chestnut oak-Kalmia type

A variant of the chestnut oak type with shrub layer dominated by mountain laurel. This is a hardwood forest with more than 60% canopy cover of trees that occurs on well-drained sites, mostly on exposed, steep, upper south and west facing slopes, south of Ithaca. Soil is usually shallow to bedrock and acidic. Species diversity is less than in the Appalachian oak-hickory forest. Dominants are chestnut oak and red oak with some white oak, black oak, red maple, white pine, and hemlock. Pitch pine and red pine may be present. Chestnut sprouts are common. The shrub layer is strongly dominated by mountain laurel.

Hemlock-northern hardwood forest

A forest that typically occurs on lower slopes of ravines, on cool, mid-elevation slopes, and at the edges of drainage divide swamps. Hemlock is a co-dominant species with one to three others: beech, sugar maple, red maple, black cherry, white pine, yellow birch, black birch, red oak, and basswood. Shrubs have low abundance, but striped maple may be present. Herbs characteristic of northern and montane areas are common.

Rocky headwater stream

The aquatic community of a small to moderate sized rocky stream with a moderate to steep gradient that lacks persistent emergent vegetation. The cold water stream flows over eroded bedrock near the stream origin and contains alternating riffle and pool sections. These streams typically have mosses and algae present, but few larger rooted plants.

Shale cliff and talus community

A community with sparse vegetation that occurs on nearly vertical exposures of shale bedrock, ledges, and talus. The talus is unstable, there is little soil. Characteristic species include blunt-lobed woodsia, rusty woodsia, hairy penstemon, herb-Robert, panic grass, Carex pensylvanica, and eastern red cedar.

Successional northern hardwoods

A forest with more than 60% canopy cover of trees that occurs on sites that have been cleared or otherwise disturbed. Dominant trees are usually two or more of the following: red maple, white pine, white ash, gray birch, quaking aspen, big-tooth aspen, and, less frequently, sugar maple and white ash. Tree seedlings and saplings may be of more shade tolerant species. Shrubs and ground cover species may be those of old-fields. In abandoned pasturelands apples and hawthorns may be present in the understory.