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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.

Conifer plantation

A planted stand of commercial trees species, usually for timber purposes. Usually a monoculture, but they may be mixed stands with two or more species. Species typically planted include white pine, red pine, Scotch pine, Norway spruce, Douglas fir, European larch, and Japanese larch.

Floodplain forest

A hardwood forest found on alluvial gravels on low terraces of floodplains of larger creeks and creek deltas. Characteristic trees include sycamore, cottonwood, box elder, silver and red maple, butternut, crack and white willow. American elm was once present. Characteristic vines and shrubs are Virginia creeper, poison ivy, and spicebush. Characteristic herbs are white snake root, green dragon, jewelweed, ostrich fern, and jumpseed.

Flower/herb garden

Residential, commercial, or horticultural land cultivated for the production of ornamental herbs and shrubs. This community includes gardens cultivated for the production of culinary herbs. Characteristic birds include American robin (Turdus migratorius) and mourning dove (Zenaida macroura).

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.

Midreach stream

The aquatic community of a stream that has a well-defined pattern of alternating pool, riffle, and run sections. Waterfalls and springs may be present. Typical aquatic macrophytes include waterweed and pondweeds. Persistent emergent vegetation is lacking.

Oak-beech-hickory-pine type

A forest usually found on hilltops and south to west facing slopes. Soils are acidic and well to moderately well drained, but usually have restricted rooting depth due to fragipan or bedrock. Beech, pine, or aspen may be among the dominant trees and trees of cool microclimates such as birch, hemlock, and striped and mountain maples are abundant in this ecological community type. Shrubs and herbs are abundant and moderately diverse.

Rich graminoid fen

Here the substrate is a graminoid peat which may be underlain by marl. The dominant species are sedges (Carex flava, C. hystericina, C. sterilis), with grasses and rushes. Sphagnum is restricted to a few species, but other mosses may be abundant. Other species are cattails, sundew, pitcher plant, cranberry, and grass-of-parnassus. Trees and shrubs have less than 50% cover, but include red-osier and gray dogwoods, shrubby cinquefoil, and swamp buckthorn. Rich fens are fed by water from highly calcareous springs or seepage rich in minerals with high pH, (6.5 to 8). They are underlain by glacial gravels with peat deposits. This community is often found with other fen communities which may form a mosaic on one site.

Riverside sand/gravel bar

A meadow community that occurs on sand and gravel bars deposited within, or adjacent to, a river channel. The community may be very sparsely vegetated, depending on the rates of deposition and erosion of the sand or gravel. Characteristic species include sandbar willow (Salix exigua), sand-cherry (Prunus pumila), dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).

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 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.

Successional old fielde

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.