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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.

Emergent marshes

Marsh communities occur on mineral soils or fine-grained organic soils that are permanently saturated. They are often found near the Finger Lakes or in wetlands near a drainage divide. Because water levels may fluctuate, exposing substrate and aerating the soil, there is little or no accumulation of peat. Characteristic vegetation in deeper marshes includes emergent aquatics such as yellow pond lily, cattails, bulrushes, and arrow arum. Disturbed marshes may have purple loosestrife, reedgrass, or reed canary grass. Characteristic plants in shallower marshes include bluejoint grass, cutgrass, bulrushes, and water smartweed.

Farm pond/artificial pond

The aquatic community of a small pond constructed on agricultural or residential property. These ponds are often eutrophic and may be stocked with fish.

Perched swamp white oak swamp

A swamp on mineral soils that occurs in a shallow depression on a forested hilltop where there is a perched water table. The sites are shallow to bedrock with an impermeable clay layer. The swamp may be flooded in spring and dry by late summer. The dominant tree is swamp white oak, which may form a nearly pure, but open canopy stand. In better drained areas, the canopy may include scarlet oak, white oak, red maple, white pine, and pitch pine. Scattered ericaceous shrubs are present in the open understory and include black huckleberry, highbush blueberry, lowbush blueberry, and maleberry. Hummocks around bases of trees and shrubs often have Sphagnum mosses. The ground cover may be sparse (South Hill, Bull pasture ponds).

Red maple-hardwood swamp

A swamp that occurs in poorly drained upland depressions usually on acidic muck over clay. The bedrock is usually shale. Red maple or silver maple may dominate alone or with yellow birch. Black ash, white pine and hemlock may also be present. The shrub layer is quite dense and includes spicebush, winterberry, black chokeberry, highbush blueberry, red-osier dogwood, arrowwood, and nannyberry. The herb layer is often dominated by cinnamon fern. Herbs include skunk cabbage, jewelweed, and sedges.

Shrub swamp

A shrub dominated wetland that occurs along a lake or river, in a wet depression, or as a transition between wetland and upland communities. The substrate is usually mineral soil or muck. Alder, willows, or red-osier and silky dogwoods are common dominant species. Other characteristic shrub species include gray dogwoods, meadowsweet, highbush blueberry, winterberry, spicebush, viburnums, and buttonbush. A few red maple trees may be present. The herb layer is lush and diverse, and typically includes species found in sedge-grass meadows.

Successional old field

A meadow on sites cleared, plowed, and then abandoned. The ragweed type occurs on fields 1 to 3 years after last cultivation; ragweed, daisy, Queen Anne's lace, crab grass, golden foxtail, and chickweed are common. The goldenrod subtype occurs 3 - 15 years after last cultivation. Dominant species are perennial composites: goldenrods and asters. Other herbs include timothy, orchard grass, smooth brome, bluegrasses, quackgrass, sweet vernal grass, evening primrose, old-field cinquefoil, wild strawberry, and hawkweeds. Shrubs and trees represent less than 50% cover but include gray dogwood, arrowwood, raspberries, blackberries, sumac, red maple and white pine.

Successional shrubland

A shrubland with at least 50% cover of shrubs that occurs on agricultural fields 10 - 25 years after abandonment, following other disturbance, and especially on sites with restricted drainage. Characteristic shrubs include gray dogwood, raspberries, hawthorn, serviceberries, chokecherry, sumac, nannyberry, arrowwood and buckthorn. Herbs are those of old-fields. Seedlings of white pine, red maple and white ash are usually present.

Wetland headwater stream

The aquatic community of a small, swampy brook with a low gradient, slow flow rate, and cool to cold water that flows through a fen, swamp or marsh near the stream origin. Springs may be present. The substrate is clay, gravel or sand, with silt, muck, peat, or marl deposits along the shore. Characteristic plants include watercress, Chara. Persistent emergent vegetation is lacking.