Mapping Ecological Zones in Virginia and West Virginia
 
From 2010-2013, the Central Appalachians Fire Learning Network (FLN) contracted with Steve Simon of Ecological Modeling and Fire Ecology, Inc. to map Ecological Zones on over 10 million acres centered on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia and West Virginia.  Additional conservation lands mapped by this project include portions of or the entirety of: the Monongahela National Forest, the Appalachian Trail Corridor, the Blue Ridge Parkway, T.M. Gathright Wildlife Management Area, Highland Wildlife Management Area, Goshen-Little North Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Seneca State Forest, Watoga State Park, Douthat State Park, Calvin Price State Forest, Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Big Survey Wildlife Management Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Grayson Highlands State Park, Breaks Interstate Park, New River State Park, Hungry Mother State Park, Cleveland Barrens State Natural Area Preserve, Mountain Lake Biological Station, Pedlar Hills Glades State Natural Area Preserve, Cedars State Natural Area Preserve, Natural Tunnel State Park, Pinnacle State Natural Area Preserve, and numerous municipal or private lands. 
 
Ecological Zones are units of land that can support a specific plant community or plant community group based upon environmental factors such as temperature, moisture, fertility, and solar radiation that control vegetation distribution. They may or may not represent existing vegetation, but instead, the vegetation that could occur on a site with historical disturbance regimes. Ecological Zones are equivalent to LANDFIRE Biophysical Settings (BpS) which represent the vegetation that may have been dominant on the landscape prior to Euro-American settlement and are based on both the current biophysical environment and an approximation of the historical disturbance regime. Ecological Zones are mapped at a higher resolution than BpS, have more categories, and use abbreviated Nature Serve names.  Ecological Zones have been used to quantify habitat for management indicator species, identify and prioritize sites for rare plant community restoration, inform current and desired conditions for forest plan revisions, evaluate the locations and extent of fire-adapted communities, prioritize sites for controlled burns, and stratify monitoring plots. 
 
Ecological zones were mapped on 5.6 million acres in the Southern Appalachians in 2001 and revised in 2008.  Since that 2001 study, Ecological Zones have been mapped in Kentucky, Tennessee, in the Uwharrie Mountains, and the South Mountains, Northern Escarpment, and New River FLN landscapes in North Carolina.  These two reports document the work on the George Washington National Forest and Jefferson National Forest study areas in Virginia and West Virginia. 
For more information and GIS data layers, please contact Marek Smith (marek_smith @ tnc.org or (540) 839-3599). 
 
The two reports found in the sidebar on the right document the methods and results of the most current effort to improve Ecological Zone models and mapping in the George Washington National Forest and Jefferson National Forest study areas.  Please note that, due to file size constraints, you must access each report and its appendixes as separate files.