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Southern Blue Ridge

Megan Sutton 4/23/2013

southern blue ridge matrix forests nature conservancy
​If we imagine ourselves looking out of a plane window on a flight from Atlanta toward Pittsburgh, we could see that the Southern Blue Ridge contains much of the few remaining, relatively unfragmented mega-forested blocks (>100,000 acres) in the eastern United States. Large forests themselves have become a relatively rare natural feature in much of the southeast.  These forests are important for the people inhabiting the region, who depend on them for quality drinking water and flood control, for the renewal that comes from beautiful scenery and recreation, and for the economic returns that come from tourism and natural resource uses.  And, they are important to the wide array of plant and animal populations that depend on them for their long-term continued existence and health.
The Southern Blue Ridge (SBR) is one of the most biologically significant regions in the United States.  Within the >9.4 million acres of this ecoregion, an unbroken network of our country’s most diverse forests span and connect the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  The unique topography and climate in this region create an array of habitats that support astonishing numbers of rare and endemic terrestrial and freshwater species and communities. More than 120 endemic terrestrial communities are known to occur in the SBR, supporting at least 400 rare plant species and world renowned amphibian diversity. The rivers and tributaries of the SBR are considered exceptionally diverse freshwater systems that support at least 66 at-risk aquatic species occurring in the region, 20 of which are federally-listed as threatened or endangered.
Two new reports are now complete and available online. The Southern Blue Ridge: An Analysis of Matrix Forests report identifies a representative network of matrix-forming forest reserves, large and contiguous enough to maintain key ecosystem processes and services, resilience, and movement of organisms. The Southern Blue Ridge: Core Forest Delineation report identifies core conservation areas within the identified matrix forest blocks. Core areas are unfragmented, heterogeneous landscapes that, being nested within the matrix forest blocks, provide the opportunity for relatively natural processes to occur or be mimicked through management, resulting in a healthy range of structural and compositional forest attributes. Please click on the above links to be re-directed to these reports and more information.
Additional Resources:
NC Portion of Southern Blue Ridge Restoration Needs Analysis, completed in April 2014.
•The Nature Conservancy: Megan Sutton, Southern Blue Ridge Program Director (NC), (828) 350-1431, msutton@tnc.org.
•The Nature Conservancy: Katherine Medlock, East Tennessee Project Director, (865) 546-5998, kmedlock@tnc.org.
•The Nature Conservancy: Kristen Austin, Southern Blue Ridge Project Director (SC), (864) 233-4988, kaustin@tnc.org.
•The Nature Conservancy:  Angela Watland, Virginia Chapter Conservation Planner, (276) 676-2209, awatland@tnc.org.
•The Nature Conservancy: Sara Gottlieb, Georgia Chapter Conservation Planner, (404) 253-7250, sgottlieb@tnc.org.