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Northeastern coastal forests
Realm Nearctic
Biome Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
Bird species251 [1]
Mammal species63 [1]
Area89,691 km2 (34,630 sq mi)
Country United States
Climate type Humid continental (Dfa and Dfb) and humid subtropical (Cfa)
Habitat loss40.8% [1]
Protected6.2% [1]

The Northeastern coastal forests are a temperate broadleaf and mixed forests ecoregion of the northeast and middle Atlantic region of the United States. The ecoregion covers an area of 34,630 sq miles (89,691 km2) encompassing the Piedmont and coastal plain of seven states, extending from coastal southwestern Maine, southeastern New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, southward through Connecticut, New York State, New Jersey, southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

The ecoregion is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. To the north, it transitions to the New England-Acadian forests, which cover most of northern and inland New England. To the west, the ecoregion transitions to Allegheny Highlands forests and the Appalachian-Blue Ridge forests of the Appalachian Mountains. To the south lie the Southeastern mixed forests and the Middle Atlantic coastal forests. The ecoregion surrounds the distinct Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion, which covers portions of New Jersey, Long Island and Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusetts.


The climate in this ecoregion is the broad transition from the humid continental in the north to the humid subtropical climate in the south.


Oak forests dominate this ecoregion. American chestnut ( Castanea dentata) was formerly important, but its population was devastated by the chestnut blight early in the 20th century.

Dry-mesic oak forests

Northeastern interior dry-mesic oak forests are found throughout this ecoregion. They cover large areas at low and middle elevations, typically on flat to gently rolling terrain. Red oak ( Quercus rubra), white oak ( Quercus alba), and black oak ( Quercus velutina) are common oaks in this habitat. Other trees include hickories ( Carya spp.), red maple ( Acer rubrum), sugar maple ( Acer saccharum), white ash ( Fraxinus americana), tulip tree ( Liriodendron tulipifera), American beech ( Fagus grandifolia), black cherry ( Prunus serotina), black birch ( Betula lenta), black tupelo ( Nyssa sylvatica), and American elm ( Ulmus americana). Flowering dogwood ( Cornus florida) is a common understory tree. [2] [3]

Common shrubs are maple-leaved viburnum ( viburnum acerifolium), spicebush ( Lindera benzoin), and witch hazel ( Hamamelis virginiana). In sandier or more acidic soils are mountain laurel ( Kalmia latifolia), blueberry ( Vaccinium pallidum), huckleberry ( Gaylussacia baccata), and swamp azalea ( Rhododendron viscosum). [2]

Mayapple ( Podophyllum peltatum) is a common herbaceous plant. [2]

Hemlock-northern hardwood forests

Hemlock-northern hardwood forests occur in deep coves, moist flats, and ravines. They include sugar maple, yellow birch ( Betula alleghaniensis), and beech. These trees often form a deciduous canopy, but are sometimes mixed with hemlock ( Tsuga canadensis) or white pine ( Pinus strobus). Other common trees include oaks (most commonly red oak), tuliptree, black cherry, and sweet birch. In the Northeast, red spruce ( Picea rubens) can be a minor canopy associate. Hophornbeam ( Ostrya virginiana) is frequent but not dominant. [4]

Dry oak-pine forests

Central Appalachian dry oak-pine forests occur on dry sites with loamy to sandy soils. A mix of oak and pine tree species dominate the canopy, typically chestnut oak ( Quercus prinus), Virginia pine ( Pinus virginiana), and white pine ( Pinus strobus), but sometimes white oak ( Quercus alba) or scarlet oak ( Quercus coccinea). Varying amounts of oaks and pines result in oak forests, mixed oak-pine forests, or small pine forests. Shrubs such as hillside blueberry ( Vaccinium pallidum), black huckleberry ( Gaylussacia baccata), and mountain laurel ( Kalmia latifolia) are common in the understory and can form a dense layer. [5]

Pine-oak rocky woodlands

Central Appalachian pine-oak rocky woodlands occur on lower-elevation hilltops, outcrops, and rocky slopes and have a patchy or open aspect. Pitch pine ( Pinus rigida) and Virginia pine ( Pinus virginiana) are common within their respective ranges. These pines are often mixed with dry-site oaks such as chestnut oak ( Quercus prinus), bear oak ( Quercus ilicifolia), northern red oak ( Quercus rubra), and scarlet oak ( Quercus coccinea). Sprouts of chestnut ( Castanea dentata) can also be found. In the northeast, eastern red-cedar ( Juniperus virginiana) or hophornbeam ( Ostrya virginiana) are sometimes important. In the understory, some areas have a fairly well-developed heath shrub layer, others a graminoid layer, the latter particularly common under deciduous trees such as oaks. [6]

Harriman State Park in New York.

Successional plant communities

These occur in formerly cleared land, such as old farms, that have been abandoned. Eastern red cedar ( Juniperus virginiana) are some of the first trees to occupy these lands. [2]

Freshwater wetlands

Marshes occur where standing water is present for most of the year. Common reed ( Phragmites australis) and cattails ( Typha spp.) are often abundant. [2]

Swamps and floodplains occur where standing water is present for only some parts of the year. Red maple is a common tree, and can be found with swamp tupelo, white ash, American elm, pin oak ( Quercus palustris), swamp white oak ( Quercus bicolor), and silver maple ( Acer saccharinum). Spicebush is a common shrub. Skunk cabbage ( Symplocarpus foetidus) is found here. [2]


Some of the animals that live in the Northeastern coastal deciduous forests are white-tailed deer, eastern gray squirrels, chipmunks, red foxes, sparrows, chickadees, copperheads, rattlesnakes, northern water snakes, box turtles, snapping turtles, black rat snakes, garter snakes, snails, American toads, coyotes, black bears, bobcats, beavers, woodchucks, skunks, and raccoons. Chickadees, white-tailed deer, and eastern gray squirrels can be seen quite often. Eastern wolves and eastern cougars used to be quite common, but are extirpated, causing endemic growth in deer populations near suburban areas, with eastern coyotes generally taking their place by the mid-20th century. Moose may also be seen in some of the northernmost regions of the Northeastern coastal forests, though this is very, very rare. [7] Other fauna that occupy the area include bog turtles, ducks, rabbits, eagles, and (formerly) Canada lynx and sea mink. [8]

Areas of intact habitat

The following natural areas are within this ecoregion [9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Hoekstra, J. M.; Molnar, J. L.; Jennings, M.; Revenga, C.; Spalding, M. D.; Boucher, T. M.; Robertson, J. C.; Heibel, T. J.; Ellison, K. (2010). Molnar, J. L. (ed.). The Atlas of Global Conservation: Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities to Make a Difference. University of California Press. ISBN  978-0-520-26256-0.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Collins, B. R.; Anderson, K. H. (1994). Plant Communities of New Jersey: A Study in Landscape Diversity. Rutgers University Press. ISBN  978-0-8135-2071-1.
  3. ^ "Northeastern Interior Dry-Mesic Oak Forest". NatureServe Explorer. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Appalachian (Hemlock)-Northern Hardwood Forest". NatureServe Explorer. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Central Appalachian Dry Oak-Pine Forest". NatureServe Explorer. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Central Appalachian Pine-Oak Rocky Woodland". NatureServe Explorer. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Moose Map Shows Sightings, Deaths In Massachusetts: See Your Town". Worcester, MA Patch. December 4, 2019.
  8. ^ "Ecoregions of New England" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  9. ^ Olson; D. M; E. Dinerstein; et al. (2001). "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth". BioScience. 51 (11): 933–938. doi: 10.1641/0006-3568(2001)051[0933:TEOTWA]2.0.CO;2.