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CEGL006254 Picea rubens / Kalmia latifolia - Menziesia pilosa Woodland

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
Type Concept Sentence:
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Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Red Spruce / Mountain Laurel - Minniebush Woodland
Colloquial Name: High Allegheny Red Spruce Woodland
Hierarchy Level: Association
Type Concept: This red spruce woodland occurs on acidic bedrock outcrops or summits on the Allegheny Front of the Central Appalachians. The community is characterized by a stunted, open canopy of Picea rubens, with abundant heath shrubs and lichens. Soil is sparse, generally occurring in cracks and pore spaces between rocks, and characterized by very high organic matter and low macro- and micronutrients. Large seasonal temperature variations are recorded for this habitat. The open canopy is strongly dominated by Picea rubens, with much lower cover of Pinus rigida, Acer rubrum, Betula alleghaniensis var. alleghaniensis, Amelanchier laevis, Sorbus americana, and Tsuga canadensis. The shrub strata are diverse with abundant Kalmia latifolia accompanied by Vaccinium angustifolium, Ilex mucronata, Rhododendron maximum, Menziesia pilosa, Gaylussacia baccata, Photinia melanocarpa, Vaccinium erythrocarpum, and other shrubs. The herbaceous layer is sparse, often including Maianthemum canadense, Pteridium aquilinum, and Polypodium appalachianum. The nonvascular stratum has significant diversity, much of which occurs as abundant crustose lichens on the rocky substrate. In addition to crustose lichens, the nonvascular layer often includes Cladonia rangiferina, Umbilicaria muhlenbergii, Hypnum imponens, Leucobryum glaucum, Pleurozium schreberi, and Lasallia papulosa. Along the Allegheny Front at Red Creek Plains and Helmick Run in West Virginia, a variant of this woodland occurs with Pinus rigida codominant in the canopy.
Diagnostic Characteristics: No Data Available
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features:
Classification Comments: Classification of this type is supported by 14 plots (4 Element Occurrences) in West Virginia, distributed throughout its range in the state. The plots in this type cluster and ordinate strongly together in species space, with a large number of indicator species. The type is restricted geographically to the drier, more exposed sites of the Allegheny Front in West Virginia.
Similar NVC Types:
Picea rubens / Ribes glandulosum Woodland, note: is a red spruce woodland of acidic talus slopes in the Northern Appalachians with Abies balsamea and Betula papyrifera.
Picea rubens / Vaccinium angustifolium / Sibbaldiopsis tridentata Woodland, note: is a red spruce woodland of the Northern Appalachians (peripherally south to northeastern PA) on acidic bedrock outcrops or summits with Abies balsamea and Betula papyrifera, and lacking Kalmia latifolia, Rhododendron maximum, etc.
Physiognomy and Structure: No Data Available
Floristics: The community is characterized by a stunted, open canopy of Picea rubens, with abundant heath shrubs and lichens. The canopy averages 40% cover, strongly dominated by Picea rubens, with much lower cover of Pinus rigida, Acer rubrum, Betula alleghaniensis var. alleghaniensis, Amelanchier laevis, Sorbus americana, and Tsuga canadensis. The tall-shrub layer is dominated by Kalmia latifolia with Ilex mucronata (= Nemopanthus mucronatus), Rhododendron maximum, and regenerating tree saplings. The short-shrub layer is diverse and often includes Vaccinium angustifolium, Menziesia pilosa, Gaylussacia baccata, Ilex mucronata, Photinia melanocarpa, Rhododendron maximum, and Vaccinium erythrocarpum. Occasional shrubs include Ribes rotundifolium, Prunus pensylvanica var. pensylvanica, Gaultheria procumbens, Ribes glandulosum, Vaccinium myrtilloides, Ilex montana, Acer pensylvanicum, Acer spicatum, Hamamelis virginiana, Rhododendron prinophyllum, and Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides. The herbaceous layer is sparse, often including Maianthemum canadense, Pteridium aquilinum, and Polypodium appalachianum. Additional herbaceous species with lower constancy include Deschampsia flexuosa var. flexuosa, Aralia nudicaulis, Epigaea repens, and Carex brunnescens. The nonvascular stratum has significant diversity, much of which occurs as abundant crustose lichens on the rocky substrate. The crustose lichens have not been thoroughly documented for this type. In addition to crustose lichens, the nonvascular layer often includes Cladonia rangiferina, Umbilicaria muhlenbergii, Hypnum imponens, Leucobryum glaucum, Pleurozium schreberi, and Lasallia papulosa. Along the Allegheny Front at Red Creek Plains and Helmick Run in West Virginia, a variant of this woodland occurs with Pinus rigida codominant in the canopy. Species richness averages 24 species per 400-m2 plot, with most of the diversity in the shrub strata.
Dynamics: In some areas, this community was probably maintained by fire (for blueberry production) in the period following European settlement. Native Americans may also have practiced burning in this community. Soils are slowly accumulating again in the absence of widespread fires, with both in-situ organic matter deposition and windblown soil deposits as likely mechanisms, and in some areas this community is following a slow successional pathway back to red spruce forest. Shallow, infertile, and sometimes waterlogged soils and bedrock outcrops appear to maintain this community in some areas even in the absence of fire. In 1746, Thomas Lewis surveyed across one present location of this community and wrote: "When we had gained the summit there was a level as far as we could see to right and left clear of timber about a quarter of a mile wide, covered with large flat rocks and marshy" (Lewis 1746). Along the Allegheny Front in West Virginia, a variant of this woodland occurs with a taller Picea rubens canopy mixed with Pinus rigida. The Pinus rigida appears to have expanded outward from adjacent Pinus rigida-heath peatlands during severe fire episodes from 1900-1920.
Environmental Description: This red spruce woodland occurs on acidic bedrock outcrops or summits. Soil is sparse in this rocky woodland, generally occurring in cracks and pore spaces between rocks. Some of the soil may be residual, sheltered from major fires which burned much of the organic substrate in this portion of the red spruce zone in the early 20th century. Soil chemistry is characterized by very high organic matter and low macro- and micronutrients. Large seasonal temperature variations are recorded for this habitat, with relatively cold winter days and hot summer days. Precipitation is at the lower end of the range for red spruce in the Central Appalachians.
Geographic Range: This community occurs within a 50-kilometer linear band along the Allegheny Front in West Virginia with an outlier on Panther Knob in the Ridge and Valley.
Nations: US
States/Provinces: WV
US Forest Service Ecoregions (1994/1995)
Domain Name:
Division Name:
Province Name: Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest - Coniferous Forest - Meadow Province
Province Code: M221    Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Northern Ridge and Valley Section
Section Code: M221A     Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)
Domain Name:
Division Name:
Province Name: Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest - Coniferous Forest - Meadow Province
Province Code: M221    Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Northern Ridge and Valley Section
Section Code: M221A     Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Omernik Ecoregions:
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Grank: G2
Greasons: This association occurs in a limited habitat on exposed acidic bedrock and talus in the Central Appalachians, within the restricted cool, moist climate of the red spruce zone. The total area of occupancy is about 5 square km. The potential range of this community has been well-surveyed in West Virginia, where four large occurrences are known, three of which are on public land and reasonably well-protected. Threats include vacation home development on these highly scenic rocky ridgetops, industrial wind development along the Allegheny Front, strip mining, fire management (poorly understood fire dynamics could lead to damage by either fire suppression or prescribed burning), and climate change which is likely to push the narrow climate envelope of the community off the ridgetops.
Concept Lineage: CEGL006558 merged into CEGL006254.
Predecessors:
Obsolete Names:
Obsolete Parents:
Synonomy: = Picea rubens / Kalmia latifolia - Menziesia pilosa Woodland [Red Spruce - Heath Rocky Woodland] (Vanderhorst 2015)
Concept Author(s): Eastern Ecology Group
Author of Description: E.A. Byers and S.C. Gawler
Acknowledgements:
Version Date: 20Dec2018
References:
  • Byers, E. A., J. P. Vanderhorst, and B. P. Streets. 2010. Classification and conservation assessment of upland red spruce communities in West Virginia. West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Elkins.
  • Clarkson, R. B. 1964. Tumult on the mountains: Lumbering in West Virginia - 1770-1920. McClain Printing Co., Parsons, WV. 410 pp.
  • Core, E. L. 1939. The flora of the Roaring Plains, West Virginia. The West Virginia University Bulletin, Proceedings of the West Virginia Academy of Science. Volume 12:33-35.
  • Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.
  • Lewis, T. 1746. The Fairfax Line. In: A. T. McClinton, editor. 1996. The Fairfax Line: A historic landmark, including a replication of Thomas Lewis's Journal of 1746. Shenandoah County Historical Society. Edinburg, VA.
  • Strother, D. H. 1872. The Mountains II. Harper's New Monthly Magazine 44(264):801-815.
  • Vanderhorst, J. 2015. Wild vegetation of West Virginia: Upland red spruce forests and woodlands. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Program. [http://wvdnr.gov/Wildlife/Factsheets/UplandRedSpruce.shtm]
  • WVNHP [West Virginia Natural Heritage Program]. No date. Unpublished data. West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, Elkins.