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Ecological Communities

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.

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.

Chestnut oak forest

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, mostly south of Ithaca. Soil is usually shallow to bedrock and acidic. Species diversity is less than in the Appalachian oak-hickory forest type. 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 predominantly ericaceous; characteristic shrubs are mountain laurel, pink azalea, blueberry, and maple-leaved viburnum.

Mixed oak forest

A forest dominated by oaks found on steep south and west facing slopes. Soils may have calcareous materials at depth. Dominants are red, black, and white oak, and white pine. Black oak is an indicator of this ecological community type. Pignut hickory and red maple are usually present. Flowering dogwood and choke cherry are often abundant in the understory.

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.

Hickory-white ash-oak type

The forest occurs on flat uplands and gentle to moderate slopes. Soil is of moderate pH and well to moderately well drained. Shagbark hickory as a dominant is an indicator of this ecological community type. Mesophytes of fertile soils such as white ash, basswood, tulip poplar, sugar and red maples are among the dominant species or abundant as a group in this type. Shrubs and herbs often have a weedy component.

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.

Intermittent stream

The aquatic community of a small ephemeral streambed with a moderate to steep gradient where the water flows only during the spring or after a heavy rain. The streambed may be covered with mosses such as Bryhnia novae-angliae.

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.