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The East Gulf Coastal Plain ecoregion encompasses portions of five states (Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana) and over 42 million acres, stretching from the southwestern portion of Georgia across the Florida Panhandle and west to the southeastern portion of Louisiana (Map 2). The ecoregion has a stunning diversity of ecological systems, ranging from sandhills and rolling longleaf pine-dominated uplands to pine flatwoods and savannas, seepage bogs, bottomland hardwood forests, barrier islands and dune systems, and estuaries. In fact, in North America, the East Gulf Coastal Plain ecoregion is one of the true hotspots of biodiversity and endemism. Many species, particularly vascular plants, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes occur only in this ecoregion, and many are even more narrowly limited within the ecoregion.The freshwater aquatic systems of the East Gulf Coastal Plain are among the most significant aquatic biodiversity resources in North America. Many aquatic animals are endemic to the ecoregion, with many species occurring only in a single river system and its tributaries.

Fire-maintained longleaf pine and slash pine woodlands, and their associated seepage bogs and depression wetlands, once dominated a string of five ecoregions from southeastern Virginia to eastern Texas, including the East Gulf Coastal Plain (Map 3). This system has now been reduced to less than five percent of its former range, making it one of the most endangered landscapes in North America (Noss et al, 1995). Not only have these pineland ecosystems in
the East Gulf Coastal Plain been directly reduced in extent, but remaining areas are also fragmented and many suffer from the exclusion of fire, a critical ecological process for their maintenance and health. Aquatic systems have been severely affected by hydrologic alterations, pollution, and introduction of non-native species. Most of the hundreds of species endemic to the ecoregion, many of which were never common, have been further imperiled by these changes.


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