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Forest Types and Distribution

Southern forests are highly diverse, ranging from upland oak-hickory forests to lowland gum-cypress swamps, from naturally regenerated old growth pines to intensively managed pine plantations, and from high elevation spruce- fir to coastal mangrove and live oak forests. Figure 8 displays the distribution of four highly aggregated forest types across the region. Upland hardwoods dominate in areas north of the Piedmont and Coastal Plains from northern Alabama to Kentucky, in northern Arkansas, and throughout the western halves of Virginia and North Carolina. Pines dominate throughout the Coastal Plain from Virginia to Florida along the Atlantic Coast, and from Florida to Texas along the Gulf of Mexico. Lowland hardwoods are concentrated in the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley and in the Okeefenokee and Great Dismal swamps but are widely distributed in ribbon-like configurations along the rivers of the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.

Figure 8—Forest area by broad forest management type in the Southern United States, 2010. “Mixed” refers to the oak-pine forest management type.

Figure 8 also demonstrates the comingling of forest types, with upland hardwoods and pine types intermixed in a broad zone between the pine-dominated Coastal Plain and the hardwood-dominated mountains. Microclimate and other site conditions create a wide variety of growing conditions which in turn determine which of a wide variety of species assemblages will occupy any site.

Hardwood types occupy 55 percent of southern forest land, and pines occupy 34 percent (fig. 9). The remaining 11 percent contains an oak-pine mixture that represents a blending of species often at early stages of stand development.

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Key Findings

Forestry Sciences Laboratory

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