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Group Detail Report: G667
Northeastern Forest Vernal Pool Group

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
This broadly defined group comprises sparsely vegetated northeastern vernal woodland pools that are important breeding habitats for amphibians and invertebrates; vegetation is widely variable.
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Translated Name:Northeastern Forest Vernal Pool Group
Colloquial Name:Northeastern Forest Vernal Pool
This broadly defined group comprises sparsely vegetated northeastern vernal woodland pools that are important breeding habitats for amphibians and invertebrates; vegetation is widely variable. The association in this group is characterized by seasonally fluctuating water levels; the substrate may dry out completely in the summer. Hydrology may be affected by impermeable soils, seasonally high water tables, seasonal flooding in nearby streams and drainages, and/or impervious bedrock at or near the surface. The substrate is mineral soil with or without a layer of muck. The species composition is variable among sites, as well as annually and seasonally. Larger examples of this community type may exhibit strong zonation. Many smaller, shaded vernal ponds are unvegetated, their bottoms consisting of dead leaves and algae.
Small, shallow, basin wetland, generally ephemeral, widely variable in species composition and vegetation cover, within a forested, or previously forested, matrix.
Vegetation Hierarchy
Name:Database Code:Classification Code:
Class 1 Forest & Woodland C01 1
Subclass 1.B Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland S15 1.B
Formation 1.B.3 Temperate Flooded & Swamp Forest F026 1.B.3
Division 1.B.3.Na Eastern North American-Great Plains Flooded & Swamp Forest D011 1.B.3.Na
Macrogroup M503 Central Hardwood Swamp Forest M503 1.B.3.Na.2
Group G667 Northeastern Forest Vernal Pool G667 1.B.3.Na.2.d
Alliance A3686 Eastern North American Vernal Pool A3686
The group distribution extends into the Laurentian-Acadian region (Laurentian-Acadian-North Atlantic Coastal Flooded & Swamp Forest Macrogroup (M504)) and the group may need to be split between that macrogroup and Central Hardwood Swamp Forest Macrogroup (M503). This group does not include vernal pool vegetation already included in other groups, such as nonforested vegetation occurring in coastal plain ponds, nor that of deeper basins within forested wetlands. It is restricted to sparse vegetation occurring under an upland tree canopy that is not otherwise classified in the IVC. Recognition of vernal pool associations is complicated not only by the lack of good data but by the seasonal and spatial variability in composition. The largest factor, however, is that vernal pools are generally defined by their invertebrate and amphibian communities and often do not have characteristic suites of plant species. This type should be considered tentative pending more data. Omernik ecoregion attribution and state attribution require review.
Synonomy: >< Northeastern Vernal Pool (Cutko and Rawinski 2008)
>< Vernal Pool (Colburn 2004)
= Woodland Vernal Pool (Swain and Kearsley 2011)

Related Type Name:This group is differentiated from other wetland forests in that it mostly lacks wetland trees; shade is cast by overhanging, usually upland, trees in the surrounding forest.

Short Citation:
  • Colburn 2004
  • Cutko and Rawinski 2008
  • Faber-Langendoen et al. 2017a
  • Swain and Kearsley 2011
States/Provinces:CT, DE, LB, MA, MD, ME, NB, NH, NJ, NS, NY, ON, PA, RI, VA, VT, WV
Nations:CA, US
Range:This group ranges broadly in the northeastern and midwestern United States and adjacent Canada.
US Forest Service Ecoregions
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Vegetation structure is widely variable; tree canopy is usually closed to partially open and overhanging from adjacent upland forest. The understory ranges from high cover of shrubs and herbs, to vegetation essentially absent. Mosses and liverworts may be present.
This group ranges widely throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and varies widely in floristics. Shrubs, ferns, grasses, sedges, forbs, and mosses occur in many combinations. Common shrubs include Alnus spp., Cephalanthus occidentalis, Clethra alnifolia, Decodon verticillatus, Ilex verticillata, Lyonia ligustrina, Salix spp., and Vaccinium corymbosum. Common ferns include Onoclea sensibilis, Osmunda spp., and Thelypteris palustris; common graminoids include Calamagrostis canadensis, Carex stricta, Dulichium arundinaceum, Glyceria spp., Juncus canadensis, Scirpus cyperinus, and others. Forbs such as Polygonum spp., Ludwigia palustris, and Bidens spp. are often present. Sphagnum mosses may be present at varying cover; two liverwort species are associated with vernal pools in the Northeast: Ricciocarpos natans and Riccia fluitans (Colburn 2004).
This group occurs in small isolated depressions that flood in the early spring from groundwater or rainwater; some pools also occur on floodplain backswamps. The substrate is variable, ranging from sand to loam to bedrock, with or without a significant organic layer. Stands occur in shallow basins that flood in the spring and draw down later in the season, or in alluvial backswamps that are also dry late in the growing season.
These pools are usually isolated, with rainwater and groundwater the sources of inundation. Water levels decrease through the growing season and are often lacking standing water by late summer.
45:C, 50:C, 55:C, 56:C, 57:C, 58:C, 60:C, 61:C, 62:C, 63:C, 65:C, 66:C, 70:C, 71:C, 82:C, 83:C, 84:C
L.A. Sneddon      Version Date: 19May2015

  • Colburn, E. A. 2004. Vernal pools: Natural history and conservation. McDonald and Woodward Publishing, Blacksburg, VA. 426 pp.
  • Cutko, A., and T. J. Rawinski. 2008. Flora of northeastern vernal pools. Pages 71-104 in: A. J. K. Calhoun and P. G. deMaynadier, editors. Science and Conservation of Vernal Pools in Northeastern North America. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
  • Faber-Langendoen, D., J. Drake, S. Gawler, M. Hall, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, L. Sneddon, K. Schulz, J. Teague, M. Russo, K. Snow, and P. Comer, editors. 2010-2017a. Divisions, Macrogroups and Groups for the Revised U.S. National Vegetation Classification. NatureServe, Arlington, VA. plus appendices. [in preparation]
  • Swain, P. C., and J. B. Kearsley. 2011. Classification of the natural communities of Massachusetts. Version 1.4. Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough, MA. []

USNVC Credits: Detailed Description of the National Vegetation Classification Types

Date Accessed:

To cite a description:
Author(s). publicationYear. Description Title [last revised revisionDate]. United States National Vegetation Classification. Federal Geographic Data Committee, Washington, D.C.

About spatial standards:
The United States Federal Geographic Data Committee (hereafter called the FGDC) is tasked to develop geospatial data standards that will enable sharing of spatial data among producers and users and support the growing National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), acting under the Office of Management Budget (OMB) Circular A-16 (OMB 1990, 2000) and Executive Order #12906 (Clinton 1994) as amended by Executive Order #13286 (Bush 2003). FGDC subcommittees and working groups, in consultation and cooperation with state, local, tribal, private, academic, and international communities, develop standards for the content, quality, and transferability of geospatial data. FGDC standards are developed through a structured process, integrated with one another to the extent possible, supportable by the current vendor community (but are independent of specific technologies), and publicly available.

About this document
This document contains type descriptions at the Group level of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. These descriptions were primarily written by NatureServe ecologists in collaboration with Federal Geographic Data Committee Vegetation Subcommittee and a wide variety of state, federal and private partners as a part of the implementation of the National Vegetation Classification. Formation descriptions were written by the Hierarchy Revisions Working Group. The descriptions are based on consultation with natural resource professionals, published literature, and other vegetation classification systems. The Ecological Society of America's Panel on Vegetation Classification is responsible for managing the review and formal adoption of these types into the National Vegetation Classification. Partners involved in the implementation of the USNVC include:

U.S. Government
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Commerce (DOC)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of the Interior (USDI)
  • Forest Service (FS) - Chair
  • National Agriculture Statistical Service (NASS)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • U.S. Navy (NAVY)
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
  • National Park Service (NPS)
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Non U.S. Government
  • NatureServe (NS)
  • Ecological Society of America (ESA)

Given the dynamic nature of the standard, it is possible a type description is incomplete or in revision at the time of download; therefore, users of the data should track the date of access and read the revisions section of the website to understand the current status of the classification. While USNVC data have undergone substantial review prior to posting, it is possible that some errors or inaccuracies have remained undetected.

For information on the process used to develop these descriptions see:

Faber-Langendoen, D., T. Keeler-Wolf, D. Meidinger, D. Tart, B. Hoagland, C. Josse, G. Navarro, S. Ponomarenko, J.-P. Saucier, A. Weakley, P. Comer. 2014. EcoVeg: A new approach to vegetation description and classification. Ecological Monographs 84:533-561 (erratum 85:473).

Franklin, S., D. Faber-Langendoen, M. Jennings, T. Keeler-Wolf, O. Loucks, A. McKerrow, R.K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2012. Building the United States National Vegetation Classification. Annali di Botanica 2: 1-9.

Jennings, M. D., D. Faber-Langendoen, O. L. Louckes, R. K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2009. Standards for associations and alliances of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. Ecological Monographs 79(2):173-199.

FGDC [Federal Geographic Data Committee]. 2008. Vegetation Classification Standard, FGDC-STD-005, Version 2. Washington, DC., USA. []

For additional information contact:

  • Implementation of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification Standard - Alexa McKerrow (
  • NatureServe's Development of NVC Type Descriptions - Don Faber-Langendoen (don_faber-
  • Ecological Society of America's Review of the Type Descriptions
  • Federal Geographic Data Committee - Vegetation Subcommittee's Activities - Marianne Burke (