Habitats

 

Environmental Province
Southern Mixed Forest Province
Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest--Coniferous Forest--Meadow Province

 

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Sky Meadows Habitats

 

Environmental Province

 

Sky Meadows State Park is on the boundary between the South-

ern Mixed Forest Province and the Central Appalachian Broadleaf

Forest--Coniferous Forest--Meadow Province. Most of the Park's

ecological characteristics are consistent with the Southeren Mixed

Forest Province; however, elements of the Central Appalachian 

roadleaf Forest--Coniferous Forest--Meadow Province are also evi-

dent. Both ecosystems are discussed below.

 

The following information is provided by the United States Forest

Service. For additional information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us

 

Southern Mixed Forest Province

 

Land-surface form.--This province comprises the Piedmont and the
irregular Gulf Coastal Plains, where 50 to 80 percent of the area

slopes gently toward the sea. Local relief is 100 to 600 ft (30 to 180

m) on the Gulf Coastal Plains, and 300 to 1,000 ft (90 to 300 m) on

the Piedmont. The flat coastal plains have gentle slopes and local re-

lief of less than 100 ft (30 m). Most of the numerous streams in the

region are sluggish; marshes, lakes, and swamps are numerous.

 

Climate.--The climate is roughly uniform throughout the region.

Mild winters and hot, humid summers are the rule; the average annual
temperature is 60 to 70F (15 to 21C). The growing season is long (200
to 300 days), but frost occurs nearly every winter. Precipitation, which
averages from 40 to 60 in (1,020 to 1,530 mm) annually, is rather
evenly distributed throughout the year, but peaks slightly in midsummer
or early spring, when it falls mostly during thunderstorms. Precipitation
exceeds evaporation, but summer droughts occur. Snow falls rarely and
melts almost immediately.

 

Vegetation.--Climax vegetation is provided by medium-tall to tall
forests of broadleaf deciduous and needleleaf evergreen trees. At least
50 percent of the stands are made up of loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, and
other southern yellow pine species, singly or in combination. Common
associates include oak, hickory, sweetgum, blackgum, red maple, and
winged elm. The main grasses are bluestem, panicums, and longleaf
uniola. Dogwood, viburnum, haw, blueberry, American beautyberry,
youpon, and numerous woody vines are common. The West Gulf Coast
is bordered along its shores by salt marshes characterized by the marsh
grass Spartina.

 

Soils.--Ultisols dominate throughout the region, with locally conspicuous
Vertisols formed from marls or soft limestones. The Vertisols are clayey
soils that form wide, deep cracks when dry. Inceptisols on floodplains of
the major streams are among the better soils for crops.

 

Fauna.--Fauna vary with the age and stocking of timber stands, percent
of deciduous trees, proximity to openings, and presence of bottom-land
forest types. Whitetail deer and cottontail rabbits are widespread. When
deciduous trees are present on uplands, the fox squirrel is common. Gray
squirrels live along intersecting drainages. Raccoon and fox inhabit the
whole region and are hunted in many areas. Among mammals frequently
encountered in the western part of this province is the nine-banded
armadillo.

 

The eastern wild turkey, bobwhite, and mourning dove are widespread.
Of the 20-odd bird species present in mature forest, the most common
are the pine warbler, cardinal, summer tanager, Carolina wren, ruby-
throated hummingbird, blue jay, hooded warbler, eastern towhee, and
tufted titmouse. The red-cockaded woodpecker is an endangered species.

Forest snakes include cottonmouth moccasin, copperhead, rough green
snake, rat snake, coachwhip, and speckled kingsnake. Fench and glass
lizards are also found, as is the slimy salamander.

 

Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest--Coniferous Forest--

Meadow Province

 

Land-surface form: This province is composed of subdued low moun-
tains of crystalline rocks and open low mountains with valleys underlain

by folded strong and weak strata. Some dissected plateaus with mountain-

ous topography are also present. The relief is high (up to 3,000 ft [900 m]).
Elevations range from 300 to 6,000 ft (90 to 1,800 m), and are higher to
the south, reaching 6,684 ft (2,037 m) at Mount Mitchell, North Carolina.

Climate: The climate is temperate, with distinct summer and winter,
and all areas are subject to frost. Average annual temperatures range
from below 50F (10C) in the north to about 64F (18C) at the south end
of the highlands. The average length of the frost-free period is about 100
days in the northern mountains, and about 220 days in the low southern
parts of the Appalachian Highlands. Average annual precipitation varies
from 35 in (890 mm) in the valleys to up to 80 in (2,040 mm) on the
highest peaks--the highest in the Eastern United States. Precipitation
is fairly well distributed throughout the year. Snowfall is more than 24 in

(610 mm) in Pennsylvania, increasing southward along the mountains to

about 30 in (770 mm) in the Great Smoky Mountains. Southeast- and
southfacing slopes are notably warmer and drier than northwest- and
northfacing slopes, because they face the sun and are on the lee side of
the ridges. One result is that forest fires are more frequent on southfacing
slopes.

 

Vegetation: Vertical zonation prevails, with the lower limits of each
forest belt rising in elevation toward the south. The valleys of the
southern Appalachian Mountains support a mixed oak-pine forest that
resembles its counterpart on the coastal plains (described below for the
Southeastern Mixed Forest Province). Above this zone lies the
Appalachian oak forest, dominated by a dozen species each in the white
oak and black oak groups. Chestnut was once abundant, but a blight has
eliminated it as a canopy tree. Above this zone lies the northeastern
hardwood forest, composed of birch, beech, maple, elm, red oak, and
basswood, with an admixture of hemlock and white pine. Spruce-fir
forest and meadows are found on the highest peaks of the Allegheny
and Great Smoky Mountains. Mixed mesophytic forest extends into
narrow valleys (coves) of the southern Appalachians, where oak
vegetation predominates.

 

The pattern of vegetation is complicated by topography and substrate.
For example, the forests of the Great Smoky Mountains range from
open oak and southern pine stands on drier, warmer slopes at low
elevations to northern coniferous forests of spruce and fir on cold,
moist slopes higher up. But southern pine stands reach up along exposed
ridges, and hemlock forest extends down into protected ravines where
moisture and local temperature conditions resemble those found at
higher elevations.

 

Soils: Ultisols are found on ridge crests, in areas of gentle topography,
and in intermountain basins. Soils on steeper landforms are Inceptisols.

Fauna: The southern limit of distribution of many northern forest
mammals coincides with the boundaries of this province. Species
distribution maps show fingers of distribution for many species running
southward along the crest of the Appalachians. But many species are
being confined to scattered areas at higher elevations as forests are
cleared or lost due to spruce-fir die-off. The black bear, widely
distributed in other parts of North America, occurs quite commonly
in the Appalachians and surrounding areas. The eastern cougar, once an
important predator, is now thought to be extinct. Whitetail deer are
very common.

 

At upper elevations in extensions of boreal forest, red-breasted
nuthatches, black-throated green warblers, golden-crowned warblers,
golden-crowned kinglets, and northern juncos forage in red spruce and
Fraser fir trees. In the hardwood forests, there are crow-sized pileate
woodpeckers, downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers, common
flickers, and wild turkeys. The understory, especially in areas with
rhododendrons and azaleas, hosts worm-eating warblers, and the
brilliant hooded warbler is found in lush undergrowth. Louisiana
waterthrush patrol the streamsides. The mixed mesophytic forest
in coves supports a large variety of nesting birds, including the wood
thrush, ovenbird, summer tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, and all
the other species already named. The passenger pigeon, once abundant,
is now extinct.

 

Unique to the region is its great variety of salamanders: 27 species
inhabit the southern Appalachians--more than any other part of  North
America.

 

 

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