© Bruce McNitt/Panoramic Images (Virginia)

Ecoregions in Virginia

What are ecoregions?

Ecoregions reflect broad ecological patterns occurring on the landscape. In general, each ecoregion has a distinctive composition and pattern of plant and animal species distribution. Abiotic factors, such as climate, landform, soil, and hydrology are important in the development of ecosystems, and thus help define ecoregions. Within an individual ecoregion, the ecological relationships between species and their physical environment are essentially similar.

Why use ecoregions?

Using ecoregions as a framework for assessing the distribution and status of species and ecosystems makes biological sense, compared to using politically derived lines like county, state or national boundaries. Ecoregions also provide an ecological basis for partitioning the state into subunits for conservation planning purposes.

What ecoregions occur in Virginia?

Virginia’s borders contain portions of seven terrestrial ecoregions, each of which will be shortly described on the following pages. These descriptions are intended to provide the reader with a snapshot of each ecoregion, and the statements regarding biodiversity highlights and conservation needs are not meant to be comprehensive.

Virginia's Ecoregions

  • Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain

    The Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain occupies 26 million acres east of the fall line between the Piedmont and Atlantic Coastal Plain, south of the James River in Virginia and north of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina.

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  • 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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  • 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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  • South Atlantic Coastal Plain Ecoregion

    The South Atlantic Coastal Plain ecoregion encompasses more than 23 million acres across three states, including the southern portion of South Carolina, southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida.

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