Central Interior and Appalachian

The ancient Appalachians, rounded and folded by 300 million years of geologic history, define much of this region.  Often dominated by oak and hickory, the Eastern deciduous forests are a highly diverse mix of tree species and habitat types.  As these forests have recovered over the past century, so has the rich wildlife they shelter—black bear, wild turkey, deer.  The southern Appalachians include a remarkable diversity of freshwater species and the greatest collection of salamanders on Earth.  Despite three centuries of settlement, surprising pockets of wilderness remain.  

Interior landscapes east of the Great Plains prairies, south of the northern forests in the Great lakes and New England, and north of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains.

Average annual temperatures range from 10.9ºC, (52ºF), and precipitation of 1384mm or 55 inches in North Carolina to lower levels of  8.2ºC (47ºF) and 800mm (32 inches) of rainfall in Michigan.

Along the northern margin, glaciated plains and a scattering of shallow lakes.  Further south, rolling plains, low-to-high mountain ranges (central-southern Appalachians, Ozarks, Ouachitas), and their sloping pediments define the landscapes of this Division. The western side of this Division forms the transition from the tallgrass prairie region of the eastern Great Plains.  Historically, oak savannas, inclusions of tallgrass prairie, and extensive forests of oaks, hickories, maple, beech, and basswood dominated. Oak-pine forests also characterized southerly mountain ranges.  The highest ridges of the southern Appalachians transition to cool, moist spruce-fir forests.  Wet prairie, emergent marsh, and extensive bottomland forests make up remaining lowlands.  Wildfire, either set by Native Americans, or from lightening strikes, probably formed the characteristic natural disturbance over the several thousand years prior to widespread and intensive Euro-American settlement.

History and Trends
Low, flat portions of this Division form the eastern “corn belt” of Indiana, Ohio, and neighboring states with intensively converted lands for agriculture.  Agriculture later supported industrial development in the large cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Columbus.  Mountainous areas of the central Appalachians, Ozarks and Ouachitas have remained less densely populated.

Central Interior and Appalachian Ecoregions

  • Central Appalachian Forest Ecoregion

    The Central Appalachian Forest ecoregion includes the Blue Ridge Mountains from Virginia to southern Pennsylvania, the historic Great Valley, and the dramatic ridges and valleys of the Allegheny Mountains that stretch south to north.

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  • Chesapeake Bay Lowlands Ecoregion

    Fed from as far away as southern New York by the Susquehanna River, the Chesapeake Bay Lowlands ecoregion is centered on one of the largest estuaries in the world, spanning three states from Maryland and Delaware in the north southward 195 miles to its mouth in eastern Virginia.

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  • Cumberlands and Southern Ridge and Valley Ecoregion

    The Cumberlands and Southern Ridge and Valley ecoregion is a highly variable landscape with a complex geologic history. Stretching over 500 miles from northern Alabama to southern West Virginia, the ecoregion encompasses approximately 37 million acres in portions of six states.

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  • Interior Low Plateau Ecoregion

    The geology of the Interior Low Plateau is of two primary types: the Glaciated Illinoian till that dominates its northern reaches, and the unglaciated lands to the south.

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  • Lower New England-Northern Piedmont

    Stretching from southern Maine and New Hampshire through western Massachusetts and Connecticut, Vermont, and eastern New York, the Lower New England-Northern Piedmont includes, all told, portions of 12 states -- and the District of Columbia.

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  • Piedmont Ecoregion

    The piedmont, or foothills, of the Appalachian Mountains is the oldest and most eroded part of the original Appalachian orogeny. It is bounded by the coastal plain to the east and the Southern Appalachians to the west.

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  • Southern Blue Ridge Ecoregion

    Spanning over 9.4 million acres in size across portions of Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, with the greatest portion falling in North, the Southern Blue Ridge is one of the most biologically significant ecoregions in the United States.

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  • Western Allegheny Plateau Ecoregion

    Encompassing some 26 million acres across the plateau of the Allegheny Mountains, the Western Allegheny Plateau ecoregion is, like its neighbor the High Allegheny Plateau, divided into northern areas that were gouged by glaciers and the southern plateau that lay beyond.

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