Central Appalachian Forests: A Critical Biodiversity Area
Central Appalachian Forests
The Central Appalachian ecoregion spans the Appalachian, Allegheny, and Blue Ridge Mountain ranges in northwestern North Carolina to southern Pennsylvania. This ecoregion consists of many geologic variations as well as contains the largest drainage divide in the eastern United States between the Atlantic Slope and Mississippi Valley rivers. This region is characterized by several different forest types as species composition varies with geology, elevation, and aspect. Common characteristic canopy species at lower elevations include oaks, hickories, and tulip poplar. At higher elevations common species include sugar maple, yellow birch, oaks, and eastern hemlock.
While the forests in Central Appalachia provide valuable ecosystem services, they are threatened by several human-caused factors. One of these threats includes hydrologic alteration and degradation, leading to reduced quality of aquatic habitats.
Aquatic Systems in Central Appalachia
Central Appalachian forests host a diverse amount of plant and animal species. This diversity is exceptionally high due to two main factors: lack of glaciation in the southern reaches of this region, and a high variability of microclimates. Additionally, this region is one of the richest temperate freshwater regions in the world and it contains parts of the Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, and Mobile River drainages, which are global hotspots for freshwater fish and invertebrates.
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