Southern Appalachian Forests: A Critical Biodiversity Area

Cahaba River Lilies by the US Fish and Wildlife Service
Cahaba River Lilies by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

What is the Southern Appalachian CBA?

The Southern Appalachian Critical Biodiversity Area resides mostly in north and north-central Alabama, and some of northwest Georgia. There are several specialized habitats in this area due largely to the overlap of three distinct ecoregions: Ridge and Valley, Southwestern Appalachians, and Interior Plateau. Tree species common to these forests include red oaks, hickories, shortleaf and longleaf pines, and even some mesic species in lower elevation coves such as tulip poplar. However, the increased acreage of pine plantations in Alabama has changed species distributions, and now the most common species (by volume) is loblolly pine.

Southern Appalachian - FSC Specified Risk Area Maps-page-001

Current status
While there are several factors threatening the health of the forests and aquatic systems in this region. One of the largest threats is non-point source pollution. Non-point source pollution occurs when pollutants are released over a wide area and cannot be traced back to a single source. Some of the most common aquatic pollutants that are attributed to silvicultural activities are sediments, nutrients, and pesticides. In fact, the increase in sediment and chemical pollution within some watersheds of this region are correlated with a 20-40% decline in species richness and diversity. Over the past eighty years, over 67 species of fish and invertebrates have gone extinct from Alabama’s freshwater systems, and more than 54 species were listed as threated or endangered. Additionally, incompatible forest management and the influx of invasive plants following disturbance has resulted in riparian zone and aquatic health degradation.

Futher reading
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Aquatic Biodiversity Center.” Outdoor Alabama.

Alabama Forestry Commission. "Alabama's Best Management Practices for Forestry." Alabama Forestry Commission.

Griffith, G.E et al. 2001. “Ecoregions of Alabama and Georgia (Color Poster with Map, Descriptive Text, Summary Tables, and Photographs).”

Hart, Justin L., Arvind A. R. Bhuta, and Rebecca M. Schneider. 2011. “Canopy Disturbance Patterns in Secondary Hardwood Stands on the Highland Rim of Alabama.” Castanea 76: 10.

Hartsell, Andrew J. 2018. Alabama’s Forests, 2015. Asheville, NC: US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station.

Southern Group of State Foresters. 2014. “BMP Management Measures.” Southern Group of State Foresters.


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