The Natural Communities of Georgia by Leslie Edwards, Jonathan Ambrose, and L. Katherine Kirkman

The Natural Communities of Georgia is a beautiful and exhaustive encyclopedia of all the natural environments that exist within the state boundaries.  It’s an updated version of the late Charles Wharton’s 1978 book–The Natural Environments of Georgia.  This book is dedicated to him.

The Natural Communities of Georgia was published by the University of Georgia Press in February 2013 after almost a year’s delay.  It’s reasonably priced by Amazon at $46, considering it is a hardback with 674 pages, hundreds of color photographs, and dozens of illustrations and maps.  Color photographs can make a book prohibitively expensive to produce.  I eagerly purchased a copy of this book as a birthday present to myself.

Although 3 co-authors are given credit for writing this book, there are an additional 12 contributing authors listed inside, making this book quite a collaborative effort.  They could have used me as a contributing writer for the section about the Pleistocene.  They covered the Pleistocene in 2 or 3 paragraphs, and because it was the end of the chapter, most of the rest of the last page was blank.  People who regularly follow my blog know I could have easily filled that big blank page with interesting information about Pleistocene Georgia.  Whoever wrote their brief section about Pleistocene Georgia slightly missed the mark about 1 tidbit of trivia.  The author listed some of the mammal species found in Georgia during the Pleistocene and included the ocelot followed by the word, possibly, in parenthesis.  This isn’t entirely incorrect.  An individual fossil of an ocelot was found in Florida, so ocelots may have roamed Georgia then.  But I’m sure the author was referring to specimens found in 2 fossil sites in Georgia that represent a species from the Leopardus genus which includes the margay and the jaguarundi, not the ocelot.  I’ll write about these finds in my next blog entry and clear up that author’s confusion.

The format of The Natural Communities of Georgia is convenient for the reader.  The book is organized into 5 parts corresponding to the 5 ecoregions of Georgia.  The authors give an overview of each ecoregion, then discuss each type of environment found within the ecoregion.  Sidebars featuring an animal or plant commonly found in each environment are included.  Sidebars showing featured places where an example of each environment can be found conclude each section.  Detailed directions are given, so the reader can use the book as a guide to seek out each type of environment.  The following is a list of all the natural environments discussed in the book along with an example featured place.  I’ve already discussed and/or visited some of these sites.  A * denotes the ones I’ve either already blogged about or have visited.

BLUE RIDGE ECOREGION

*Northern Hardwood and Boulder Forest–The Summit of Brasstown Bald

Montane oak forest–Whitney Gap Trail on Wildcat Mountain

Cove Forest–Sosebee Cove Trail

Low to Mid elevation oak forest–Bear Hair Gap Trail

*Pine-Oak woodlands–Tallulah Gorge State Park

Ultramafic Barrens and Woodlands–Davidson Creek Botanical Area

High Elevation Rock Outcrops–Blood Mountain

Low to Mid elevation Domes, Glades, and barrens–Bog Cedar Mountain

*Low to mid elevation acidic cliffs and outcrops–Tallulah Gorge State Park

Mountain bogs–Songbird Trail at Lake Conasauga

Seepage Wetlands–Track Rock Gap Archaeological Area

Spray Cliffs–Helton Creek Falls

Flood Plains, bottomlands–Jacks River Trail

CUMBERLAND RIDGE AND VALLEY ECOREGION

Mesic Forest–Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail

*Dry Calcareous Forest–Chickamauga Battlefield Park

Acidic Oak-Pine-Hickory–Cloudland Canyon State Park

*Pine Oak woodland–Zahnd Natural Area Lookout Mountain

*Montane longleaf Woodland–Berry College

*Calcareous Cedar Glades–Chickamauga Battlefield Park

*Calcareous Prairie–Berry College

Acidic Glades–Rocktown

Calcareous Cliffs–Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area

Acidic Cliffs–Cloudland Canyon State Park

*Flatwoods–Berry College

Calcareous Seepage Fens–Mosteller Springs

Acidic Seepage Wetlands–Keown Falls Tract

*Sagponds–Zahnd Natural Area

Floodplains, bottomlands–Coosa River Lock and Dam Park

PIEDMONT ECOREGION

Mesic Forest–Chicopee Woods

Oak-Pine-Hickory–Chicopee Woods

Pine-Oak Woodlands–Red Cockaded Woodpecker Trail

Prairies–Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Park

Granite Outcrops–Davidson-Arabian Mountain

Glades, Barrens–Kennesaw Mountain

*Ultramafic Barrens–Burke’s Mountain

Flatwoods–Monticello Glades in the Oconee National Forest

Seepage Wetlands–Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area

Floodplains, Bottomlands–Alcovy Conservation Center

COASTAL PLAINS ECOREGION

*Sand Dunes–Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area

Dry Upland Longleaf Pine Woodland–Reed Bingham State Park

Mesic Longleaf Pine Woodland–Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area

Dry Evergreen Oak Woodland–Big Hammock Natural Area

Dry Deciduous Hardwood Forest–Providence Canyon Recreation Area

Mesic Slope Forest–Montezuma Bluffs Natural Area

Granite Outcrops–Broxton Rocks

*Eocene Chalk Prairie–Oaky Woods

Pitcher Plant bogs–Doe run pitcher plant bog

Shrub bog–Townsend Wildlife Management Area

Cypress-Gum Pond–Big Dukes Pond Natural Area

Depression Oak Forest–No publicly available area

Riverine floodplains, bottomlands–Ebenezer Creek Boat Ramp

*Bottomland Hardwood–Moody Forest

River Banks Levees–Altamaha Park

Small Stream Floodplain Forest–Little Ocmulgee State Park

Okefenokee Swamp–Okefenokee Swamp National Refuge

MARITIME ECOREGION

Intertidal Beaches–Jekyll Island

Maritime Dunes–Jekyll Island

Maritime Forest–Crooked River State Park

Interdunal Wetlands–Jekyll Island

Salt Marsh–Earth Day Nature Trail

Freshwater and Oligohaline Tidal Marsh–Butler Island Altamaha Wildlife Management Area

Tidal Swamp–Lewis Island Wildlife Management Area

I’m going to use The Natural Communities of Georgia as a reference in future blog entries, focusing on their paleo-origins.  Much of my rumination will be speculation.  Some of these environments, such as open pine savannahs. are ancient and may have originated as early as the Cretaceous, though with significant floral and faunal turnover.

Oh, and I’m making a note to self here to buy The Road Side Geology of Georgia when that book is published.

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4 Responses to “The Natural Communities of Georgia by Leslie Edwards, Jonathan Ambrose, and L. Katherine Kirkman”

  1. jamesrobertsmith Says:

    Wow! That’s a great list of hikes and specific targets!

    One thing that I wanted to mention…off topic, but of general interest:

    While I was in Florida I saw living Red wolves at the animal compound at the Homosassa Springs State Park. And one thing that I can say with confidence now…they are NOT coyotes! They don’t look like coyotes. They are different in almost every way to coyotes when you see them up close and moving around.

    They are much bigger than coyotes for one thing. They are colored much differently than any coyote I have ever seen on either the east or west coast.

    Red wolves have TREMENDOUS legs! Thick, and long, and very powerful looking legs. Their legs look nothing like the legs of any coyote I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of them).

    For me…this closes off any doubts that Red wolves are a distinct species. They do need to be protected, and I’m hoping the populations in eastern North Carolina continue to prosper.

  2. markgelbart Says:

    A genome wide study of canids suggests red wolves are coyotes. I don’t necessarily agree with the finding…I think it’s a bad study.

    Nevertheless, it’s not always possible to determine species, simply based on physical appearance. For example look at an Eskimo compared to a 7 foot tall African-American basketball player. They look quite different but both are Homo sapiens.

    • Mark L Says:

      Correct Mark….but look at the diet differences between eskimos and Africans also….they (were) growning apart by each generation. Same for coyotes and red wolves. how much of a coyote’s diet is non-meat? A red wolf’s? To me this resembles orcas differentiating by diet. JMHO

      • markgelbart Says:

        If you raise an eskimo baby on an American diet, I bet he/she still won’t grow up to be 7 foot tall.

        I bet there are no 7 foot tall eskimos.

        Modern day eskimos do eat a lot of American junk food these days.

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