Central Oak-Pine Habitats

   


The Central Oak-Pine macrogroup consists of the following habitats:



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Central Appalachian Pine-Oak Rocky Woodland

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT, WV. 566,276 total acres of habitat, of which 38.4% is conserved.


Description: A mixed forest or woodland of pitch pine and/or Virginia pine mixed with dry-site oaks (primarily scrub oak, scarlet oak, and chestnut oak). Red pine and shortleaf pine may also occur. Some areas have a fairly well-developed heath shrub layer; a graminoid herb layer dominated by Pennsylvania sedge, poverty grass, and common hairgrass may be more prominent in others. The vegetation is patchy, with woodland as well as open portions, or even sparse cover on dry rocky hilltops and outcrops.

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Northeastern Interior Pine Barrens

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT. 42,742 total acres of habitat, of which 28.4% is conserved.


Description: A fire-adapted system of Northeast glacial sandplains, typically an open woodland but sometimes including patches of closed-canopy forest and herbaceous openings. Pitch pine is the usual dominant; red oak, white pine, and gray birch are common associates. A tall-shrub layer of scrub oak or dwarf chinkapin oak is characteristic, as is a low-shrub layer of heath and sweetfern. Small changes in elevation create pockets with saturated soil, where shrubs such as hazelnut, buttonbush, highbush blueberry, and alder form dense cover. Grassy areas dominated by little bluestem, native lupine, and other forbs, provide habitat for rare invertebrates like the frosted elfin. Black racer and eastern ribbon snake are associated with this habitat.

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Piedmont Hardpan Woodland and Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: MD, VA. 49,430 total acres of habitat, of which 2.4% is conserved.



Description: A hardwood woodland that occurs where a particularly dense clay hardpan has developed over a range of mafic rocks (igneous rocks rich in iron and magnesium), creating dry conditions for plants despite the presence of deep soil. Open woodlands and more limited areas of shallow glade-like vegetation are the usual cover. Typical canopy trees include white oak, post oak, pignut hickory, and white ash. The open canopy leads to a better developed herb layer than in most Piedmont forests, one that is usually grassy. Some sites may have once supported open prairies or prairie savannas when they burned more frequently.

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North Atlantic Coastal Plain Hardwood Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA. 2,145,627 total acres of habitat, of which 16.1% is conserved.


Description: A hardwood forest largely dominated by oaks, often mixed with pine. White, red, chestnut, black, and scarlet oaks are typical, and american holly is sometimes present. Sassafras, birch, aspen, and hazelnut are common associates in earliersuccessional areas. In the northern half of the range, conditions can grade to dry-mesic, reflected in the local abundance of beech. A heath shrub layer is common; the herbaceous layer is sparse. In southern-more occurrences in Maryland or Virginia, pines (shortleaf, Virginia, and particularly loblolly) may be important, even strongly dominant canopy trees. The pine component is usually an indication of past human disturbance.

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North Atlantic Coastal Plain Maritime Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VA. 127,121 total acres of habitat, of which 20.3% is conserved.



Description: A forest-shrubland mosaic encompassing a range of woody vegetation on barrier islands, near-coastal strands, and bluffs at the outer edge of the coastal plain. Defined by its proximity to maritime environments, and usually speciespoor, the vegetation includes narrow bands of forests or woodlands, often featuring stunted trees with contorted branches and dense vine layers. A range of trees may be present depending upon location and degree of protection from most extreme maritime influences. They may include some combination of pines (like pitch, Virginia, loblolly, and shortleaf pine) and oaks (scarlet, black, scrub, post) as well as eastern red cedar, black cherry, American holly, sassafras, and red maple. The shrub layer may be dense; the herb layer is often sparse.

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North Atlantic Coastal Plain Pitch Pine Barrens

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: MA, NJ, NY, RI. 491,551 total acres of habitat, of which 46.8% is conserved.


Description: A dry, fire-adapted forest with a variable canopy of pitch pine, a tall-shrub layer dominated by scrub oak, and a lowshrub layer characterized by blueberry and other heaths. Other oaks (scarlet, black, chestnut, white) are also sometimes present. Composition and structure vary with fire frequency. In general, tree oaks are more prevalent in those stands having a longer fire-return interval, while fire frequencies of eight to ten years foster the growth of "pine plains," dwarf pine stands one meter in height. Dwarf-shrubs such as lowbush blueberry, bearberry and golden-heather typify the field layer of pine plains. Scrub oak stands may occur without pine cover, particularly in low-lying areas where cold-air drainage inhibits pine growth.

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Northeastern Interior Dry-Mesic Oak Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, WV. 17,032,701 total acres of habitat, of which 19.1% is conserved.


Description: An oak-dominated, mostly closed canopy forest that occurs as a matrix (dominant) type through the central part of our region. Oak species characteristic of dry to mesic conditions (e.g., red, white, black, and scarlet oak) and hickories are dominant in mature stands. Chestnut oak may be present but is generally less important than other oak species. Red maple, black birch, and yellow birch may be common associates. Heath shrubs are often present but not well developed. Local areas of limy bedrock, or colluvial pockets, may support forests that reflect the richer soils. With a long history of human habitation, many of the forests are midsuccessional, in which pines (typically Virginia or white) or tuliptree may be codominant or dominant.

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Central Appalachian Dry Oak-Pine Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT, WV. 3,845,317 total acres of habitat, of which 34.1% is conserved.


Description: An oak or oak-pine forest of dry sites, characterized by a variable mixture of drought tolerant oaks (chestnut oak, white oak, red oak, black oak, scarlet oak) and pines (pitch, white, Virginia). It occurs broadly in the Central Appalachians and northern Piedmont ecoregions, most commonly as a large (to very large) patch habitat. It has a much more limited range in New England, where hickories may be present. Community structure ranges from open woodlands to closed forest. Heath shrubs are common in the understory; the herb layer is often sparse and lacks diversity. In the absence of fire this system may tend to succeed to hemlock and locally common hardwoods.

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Southern Appalachian Montane Pine Forest and Woodland

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: MD, PA, VA, WV. 33,532 total acres of habitat, of which 69.8% is conserved.


Description: A conifer forest of slopes and ridges at high elevations in the Southern Appalachians. Table mountain pine is typical and often dominant, occurring with pitch pine, Virginia pine, or Carolina hemlock. Chestnut oak, scarlet oak, and scrub oak are usually present and are sometimes abundant in examples that have not burned recently. A dense heath shrub layer is typical; herbs are usually sparse but may be more abundant and shrubs less dense when fires occurred more frequently. Periodic fire presumably also maintained a more open woodland canopy structure in these communities. In some areas pines may be able to maintain dominance due to edaphic conditions, such as very shallow soil or extreme exposure, but most sites appear eventually to succeed to oak in the absence of fire.

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Southern Appalachian Oak Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: VA, WV. 2,869,246 total acres of habitat, of which 13.4% is conserved.


Description: An oak forest of low to mid-elevations and low to moderate moisture dominated by white, red, black, chestnut, and scarlet oaks, with varying amounts of hickory, black gum, and red maple. Centered in the Southern Blue Ridge, it is found only in the very southwestern part of our region. Chestnut was commonly a dominant or codominant until its elimination in the early 1900s. Some areas have dense evergreen heath shrubs of mountain laurel or great rhododendron; others have deciduous heath layers of blueberry and/or huckleberry. Successional communities with heavy tuliptree, pine, and black locust are also included in this system. Oaks can be long-lived with typical age of mortality ranging from 200 to 400 years for most species. White oaks can live as long as 600 years.

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Southern Piedmont Dry Oak-Pine Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: VA. 1,796,901 total acres of habitat, of which 3.0% is conserved.


Description: A hardwood or mixed forest of rocky ridges and upper slopes in the Southern Piedmont. Upland oaks dominate, sometimes with pine as a significant component. Once the dominant matrix-forming forest of the Piedmont, much of it is now composed of large patches of post-clearing successional forests in which pines (shortleaf, Virginia, loblolly) often dominate for a number of decades. Understory and shrub layers are generally well developed, and herb layers may be sparse to moderate. Species vary with soil chemistry. This forest occurs in a variety of dry to dry-mesic habitats, but historic and remnant high quality examples are rare. An unusual expression of this in Virginia consists of old loblolly pine savanna that has developed after frequent burns on military lands.

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Allegheny-Cumberland Dry Oak Forest and Woodland

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: PA, VA, WV. 2,261,249 total acres of habitat, of which 8.4% is conserved.


Description: A dry hardwood forest dominated by white oak, southern red oak, chestnut oak, scarlet oak, and black oak, with lesser amounts of red maple, pignut hickory, mockernut hickory, and sometimes sprouts of American chestnut. Scattered and small inclusions of shortleaf or Virginia pine may occur, particularly along to escarpments or following fire. Pitch pine and table mountain pine are also sometimes present, particularly in West Virginia. In the absence of fire, white pine may become established. Heath shrub layers are common. Chestnut was also common in these forests before chestnut blight eradicated it from the canopy.

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Southern Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Dry Calcareous Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: VA, WV. 914,360 total acres of habitat, of which 9.5% is conserved.


Description: A hardwood forest of dry to dry-mesic calcareous substrates dominated by combinations of oaks (white, red, black, post, chinkapin), hickories, sugar maple, black maple, white ash, and sometimes pine and/or red-cedar. Tulip poplar and black locust are common trees in logged stands. Understory and herb layers vary from lush to sparse. These forests are the matrix vegetation type under natural conditions. Much of this system is currently composed of successional forests that have arisen after repeated cutting, clearing, and cultivation of the original forests. Endemic to the southern part of the Ridge and Valley province, it reaches only into the southwestern part of our region.

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Central and Southern Appalachian Montane Oak Forest

pdf Guide for this habitat.
Regional Distribution: VA, WV. 147,890 total acres of habitat, of which 63.7% is conserved.


Description: A high elevation hardwood forest dominated by red oak and white oak, with the individuals often stunted or wind-flagged. Chestnut oak and xeric hickories are also sometimes present. Chestnut trees were important in this system historically, but are now found only as stumps and sprouts. Early azalea and other heath shrubs, along with mountain holly, are common in understory vegetation, though graminoid species and ferns dominate in some examples. At the northern end of its range in our region, patches of this habitat type are often less than 10 acres, but can be much larger on very long or broadly convex ridges.

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