THE FALL LINE: A PHYSIOGRAPHIC-FOREST VEGETATION BOUNDARY*

Authors


  • *

    Justin Hart was supported by National Science Foundation grant DGE-0538420.

Abstract

ABSTRACT. The range boundaries for many tree species in the southeastern United States correspond to the Fall Line that separates the Coastal Plain from the Appalachian Highlands. Trees in the Coastal Plain with northern range boundaries corresponding to the Fall Line occur exclusively in alluvial valleys created by lateral channel migration. These species grow mostly on lower bottomland sites characterized by a high water table, soils that are often saturated, and low annual water fluctuation. In contrast to the Coastal Plain, the southern Appalachian Highlands are occupied mostly by bedrock streams that have few sites suitable for the regeneration of these species. The Fall Line is also an approximate southern boundary for trees common in the southern Appalachians that typically occur on either dry, rocky ridgetops or in narrow stream valleys, habitats that are uncommon on the relatively flat Coastal Plain. The ranges for many trees in eastern North America are controlled by large-scale climatic patterns. Tree species with range boundaries corresponding to the Fall Line, however, are not approaching their physiological limits caused by progressively harsher climatic conditions or by competition. Instead, the Fall Line represents the approximate boundary of habitats suitable for regeneration.

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