Lower New England-Northern Piedmont
Description & Physiography
Since it lacks a single, strong environmental gradient along a shore or mountain range, the LNE-NP ecoregion may be said to be the sum of its parts. Stretching from southern Maine and New Hampshire -- with their formerly glaciated, low-mountain and lake-studded landscapes -- through the limestone valleys of western Massachusetts and Connecticut, Vermont, and eastern New York, the LNE-NP includes, all told, portions of 12 states -- and the District of Columbia. The Lower New England portion also covers fire-adapted forest communities in Rhode Island, eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut, including pitch pine and oak-dominated tracts on glacially-deposited sandy till that forms a broad plain with many ponds.
The ecoregion continues further south, into the Northern Piedmont of Maryland, northern Virginia, and eastern Pennsylvania – land that was never glaciated and is characterized by gently-rolling hills and valleys upon which dry oak woods and moist forests occur on remnant sites, steep slopes, and ridgelines.
Large portions of the Appalachian Mountains lie within the ecoregion including the Palisades in New York and New Jersey, the Taconics and the Berkshires in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, and Connecticut, and the widely strewn Monadnocks of southern New Hampshire. Some of the largest rivers in the eastern United States cut across the Atlantic slope lowlands and empty into the Atlantic Ocean. The Potomac, Susquehanna, Delaware, Hudson, Housatonic, Connecticut, Merrimack, and Saco Rivers provide a diversity of high- and low-energy aquatic habitats.
The natural character of the ecoregion is perhaps best seen in the 8% of the region currently within existing protected lands, primarily state-held, including Mt. Greylock State Park in Massachusetts, Mt. Pisgah State Park in New Hampshire, Yale-Myers Forest in Connecticut, Palisades Park in New York and New Jersey, Sterling Forest in Pennsylvania, and the Potomac Gorge in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
The Atlantic slope of North America was shaped by many tectonic, volcanic, and glacial events that created a diverse geology, interesting landforms, and topographic elevations that range from sea-level to 3800 feet. The region receives 36 – 50 inches of precipitation annually. This in turn creates a diversity of wetlands and aquatic systems.
Plants & Animals
Black bear, moose, white-tail deer, turkey, bobcat, fisher, pine marten, and beaver can all be found, once again, throughout the northern and central portions of the Lower New England ecoregion and generally appear to be expanding their ranges.
Humans & History
Europeans settled the ecoregion soon after their arrival. The following century of widespread and intensive land use significantly influenced the distribution and composition of the region’s landscapes and natural communities. Humans removed more than 90% of the original forest cover, leaving only a few patches of old growth forest in remote, inaccessible mountain coves and ravines. With the decline of farming at the turn of the last century much of the region returned to forest. Today, approximately 67% of the region is forested; 70% is in natural cover of one form or another.
The LNE-NP ecoregion remains one of the most highly populated in the country with many cities including Nashua and Manchester, NH, Springfield and Worcester, MA, Hartford, CT, Albany, NY and New York City, Baltimore, MD, York and Lancaster, PA, and Washington, D.C. Suburbs for the cities of Boston, Providence, New Haven, New York, and Philadelphia extend outward into the region. The great forest expanses are now being increasingly fragmented by first and second home development. While the mountainous areas of the ecoregion are lightly settled, the valleys have long been developed for agriculture, both rapidly succumbing to development pressures.