A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan

A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan

JOSHUA G. COHEN
MICHAEL A. KOST
BRADFORD S. SLAUGHTER
DENNIS A. ALBERT
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.14321/j.ctt14bs117
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  • Book Info
    A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan
    Book Description:

    The culmination of three decades of work by Michigan Natural Features Inventory ecologists, this essential guidebook to the natural communities of Michigan introduces the diverse terrain of a unique state. Small enough to carry in a backpack, this field guide provides a system for dividing the complex natural landscape of Michigan into easily understood and describable components called natural communities. Providing a new way to explore Michigan's many environments, this book details natural communities ranging from patterned fen to volcanic bedrock glade and beyond. The descriptions are supplemented with distribution maps, vibrant photographs, and comprehensive lists of characteristic plant species. The authors suggest places to visit to further study each type of natural community and provide a comprehensive glossary of ecological terms, as well as a dichotomous key for aiding field identification. An invaluable resource, this book is meant to serve as a tool for those seeking to understand, describe, document, conserve, and restore the diversity of natural communities native to Michigan.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-419-4
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    This field guide provides a system for dividing the complex natural landscape of Michigan into easily understood and describable components called natural communities. A natural community is defined as an assemblage of interacting plants, animals, and other organisms that repeatedly occurs under similar environmental conditions across the landscape and is predominantly structured by natural processes rather than modern anthropogenic disturbances. Unlike land-cover classification systems, which include significantly modified lands such as agricultural fields and tree plantations, this natural community classification describes the diversity of native ecosystem types that have been relatively unaltered by modern human intervention. Because of its emphasis...

  5. Key to the Natural Community Types of Michigan
    (pp. xxv-2)
  6. PALUSTRINE CLASS

    • MARSH GROUP
      (pp. 4-39)

      Marshes are herbaceous wetland communities found throughout Michigan. Marshes typically occur in association with aquatic features including the Great Lakes, inland lakes, abandoned lakebeds, ponds, rivers, streams, seeps, and beaver floodings. The soils range from inundated to saturated and are predominantly organics but can also include mineral soils. Water levels and soil saturation in Marshes can vary seasonally and from year to year. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure of Marshes can include fluctuating water levels, seasonal flooding, storm waves, groundwater seepage, flooding by beaver, and fire.

      Nine natural community types fall within the Marsh group, including...

    • WET PRAIRIE GROUP
      (pp. 40-55)

      Wet Prairies, diverse open wetlands that are dominated by grasses, sedges, and forbs, are infrequently occurring natural communities found primarily in southern Lower Michigan. Wet Prairies occur on outwash plains, outwash channels near moraines, and lakeplains on saturated to seasonally inundated mineral soils with variable organic content. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure of Wet Prairies can include fire, fluctuating water levels, and flooding by beaver.

      Five natural community types fall within the Wet Prairie group, including wet prairie, wet-mesic prairie, wet-mesic sand prairie, lakeplain wet prairie, and lakeplain wet-mesic prairie. Classification of these Wet Prairie types...

    • FEN GROUP
      (pp. 56-77)

      Fens are diverse open minerotrophic peatlands that are dominated by graminoids, forbs, shrubs, and stunted conifers and are found throughout Michigan. Fens occur primarily on glacial outwash plains, outwash channels, lakeplains, and kettle depressions in outwash plains and moraines. The saturated soils typically range from slightly acidic to alkaline peats and can also include alkaline marl. Fens are peat-accumulating wetlands that receive water that has been in contact with mineral soils or bedrock. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure of Fens are groundwater seepage, fluctuating water levels, lateral flow, peat accumulation and erosion, fire, insect outbreaks, windthrow,...

    • BOG GROUP
      (pp. 78-87)

      Bogs are open ombrotrophic peatlands that are characterized by a continuous carpet of sphagnum moss, a speciespoor herbaceous layer, low ericaceous, evergreen shrubs, and scattered and stunted conifers. Found throughout Michigan but concentrated in northern Michigan, Bogs occur primarily in kettle depressions within pitted outwash plains and moraines and in shallow depressions on glacial outwash plains and glacial lakeplains. Soils are extremely acidic to very strongly acidic, saturated peats that are often deep. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure include peat accumulation, insect outbreaks, flooding by beaver, windthrow, and occasional fires.

      Two natural community types fall within...

    • SHRUB WETLAND GROUP
      (pp. 88-101)

      Shrub Wetlands occur throughout Michigan and are characterized by dominance of tall shrubs, which typically contribute greater than 50% of the overall cover. Shrub Wetlands occur in kettles and depressions on a variety of landforms, and develop on saturated to inundated organic or mineral soils of variable depth. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure include fluctuating water levels, flooding by beaver, and windthrow.

      Three natural community types fall within the Shrub Wetland group, including inundated shrub swamp, northern shrub thicket, and southern shrub-carr. Classification of these Shrub Wetland types is based on species composition, community structure, soil...

    • FORESTED WETLAND GROUP
      (pp. 102-136)

      Forested Wetlands occur throughout Michigan and are characterized by dominance of trees, which typically contribute greater than 50% of the overall canopy cover. Forested Wetlands occur on a variety of landforms including depressions on glacial outwash plains, moraines, and lakeplains; outwash channels; poorly drained lakeplain; and within kettles on pitted outwash plains and ice-contact topography. Soils that support Forested Wetlands include both organics and mineral soils and range from shallow to deep, acidic to alkaline, and saturated to seasonally inundated. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure include groundwater seepage, seasonal flooding, drought, windthrow, flooding by beaver, insect...

  7. TERRESTRIAL CLASS

    • PRAIRIE GROUP
      (pp. 138-159)

      Prairies are diverse, fire-dependent native grassland communities that occur infrequently in the Lower Peninsula and rarely in the Upper Peninsula but were historically abundant in southern Lower Michigan and infrequent farther north. Prairies occur on glacial outwash plains, pitted outwash plains, lakeplains, coarse-textured end moraines, and glacial till plains on a variety of soils, including sands, loamy sands, sandy loams, loams, and silt loams. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure include fire, fluctuating water levels, and drought, and for prairies occurring in northern Michigan, growing-season frosts and low-nutrient soils. Prairies are dominated by warm-season grasses and herbs...

    • SAVANNA GROUP
      (pp. 160-185)

      Savannas are fire-dependent upland systems that are characterized by a scattered overstory of oaks and sometimes conifers and a graminoid-dominated ground layer. The canopy cover is typically less than 60%. Savannas are now infrequent but were once widespread throughout Michigan on a variety of landforms including sandy outwash plains, sandy glacial lakeplains, coarse-textured end moraines, and kettle-kame topography. Savannas occur on a variety of soils, including sands, loamy sands, sandy loams, and loams, and soil moisture ranges from droughty to mesic. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure include fire, fluctuating water levels, and drought, and for savannas...

    • FOREST GROUP
      (pp. 186-216)

      Forests are tree-dominated uplands that occur throughout Michigan. The canopy cover of Forests is typically greater than 60%. A variety of landforms support Forests, including glacial outwash plains, glacial lakeplains, coarse-textured ground and end moraines, thin glacial drift over bedrock or cobble, kettle-kame topography, and stabilized sand dunes. Forests develop on a variety of soils, including droughty to mesic, acidic to alkaline sands, loamy sands, sandy loams, silty loams, clay loams, loams, and clays. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure include windthrow, insect outbreaks, growing-season frosts, drought, and fires.

      Seven natural community types fall within the Forest...

  8. PALUSTRINE/TERRESTRIAL CLASS

    • WOODED DUNE & SWALE GROUP
      (pp. 218-224)

      The Palustrine/Terrestrial class is a unique class that includes the ecological group of Wooded Dune and Swale and the wooded dune and swale complex natural community type. Wooded dune and swale complex has characteristics of both wetlands and uplands. The community occurs on a repeated pattern of alternating dunes and swales adjacent to the Great Lakes and supports a mixture of upland and wetland communities. Floodplain forest, wet-mesic flatwoods, and lakeplain oak openings can contain wetland and upland zones. However, floodplain forest and wet-mesic flatwoods fall within the Palustrine class since they tend to be primarily dominated by wetland conditions...

  9. PRIMARY CLASS

    • DUNES GROUP
      (pp. 227-235)

      Dunes occur on wind-deposited sand formations near the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Dunes are characterized by little soil development and exposed, neutral to alkaline dune sands. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure include wind-mediated sand deposition and erosion, sand burial and abrasion, desiccation, and infrequent fire.

      Two natural community types fall within the Dunes group, including open dunes and Great Lakes barrens. Classification of these Dunes types is based on shoreline processes, species composition, community structure, and landscape setting.

      Open dunes is a grass- and shrub-dominated community located on wind-deposited sand formations near the shorelines of...

    • SAND/COBBLE SHORE GROUP
      (pp. 236-253)

      Sand/Cobble Shores are sparsely vegetated communities that occur along the Great Lakes shoreline. Substrate types that support Sand/Cobble Shore include sand and gravel, limestone cobble, sandstone cobble, and volcanic cobble. Soils of sand and gravel Sand/Cobble Shore are neutral to alkaline sands and gravels. The soils of bedrock-derived Sand/Cobble Shores are typically limited to sand and gravel deposits occurring between and beneath the cobble, but shallow organic sediments can accumulate in protected inner portions of the shore. Vegetation is typically sparse because storm waves are prevalent and soil development and suitable substrates for plant establishment are limited. Natural processes that...

    • BEDROCK LAKESHORE GROUP
      (pp. 254-271)

      Bedrock Lakeshores are sparsely vegetated communities with scattered herbs, graminoids, shrubs, and stunted trees growing on flat to gently sloping bedrock exposures along the Great Lakes shorelines of the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula. Bedrock types that support Bedrock Lakeshore include limestone, sandstone, granite, and volcanics. Soil development and plant establishment are generally limited to cracks, joints, vesicles, and depressions in the bedrock, where small amounts of organic matter and finer sediments accumulate. Natural processes that influence species composition and community structure include wind and wave action, Great Lakes water level fluctuation, winter ice scour, and desiccation.

      Four natural...

    • BEDROCK GRASSLAND GROUP
      (pp. 272-277)

      Bedrock Grassland is a unique group that includes one natural community type, alvar. Alvar is a grassland community that occurs on level exposures of limestone and dolomite bedrock and thin soils over these calcareous bedrock types. Alvar occurs on the Niagaran Cuesta in the eastern and south-central Upper Peninsula and northeastern Lower Peninsula. Alvar is characterized by the dominance of grasses and sedges with scattered shrubs and trees. Bedrock Grassland is differentiated from Bedrock Glade based on canopy cover. Bedrock Grasslands typically support less than 10% canopy cover whereas Bedrock Glades support between 10 and 60% canopy cover.

      Alvar is...

    • BEDROCK GLADE GROUP
      (pp. 278-295)

      Bedrock Glades are savanna or open woodland communities that occur on exposed bedrock and thin soils over bedrock. These systems are found primarily in the Upper Peninsula but also occur infrequently in the northeastern Lower Peninsula. Bedrock Glades are characterized by sparse vegetation consisting of scattered and stunted trees, scattered shrubs and shrub thickets, and a partial turf of herbs, grasses, sedges, mosses, and lichens. Canopy cover typically ranges from 10 to 60%. Bedrock types that support Bedrock Glade include limestone, granite, and volcanics. Bedrock Glades are found on flat expanses of limestone or dolomite and steep to stair-stepped slopes,...

    • LAKESHORE CLIFF/BLUFF GROUP
      (pp. 296-313)

      Lakeshore Cliff/Bluff systems are sparsely vegetated communities on vertical or near-vertical exposures of bedrock or steeply sloping bluffs of clay along the Great Lakes shorelines or along rivers draining into the Great Lakes. Bedrock types that support Lakeshore Cliff/Bluff include limestone, sandstone, granite, and volcanics. There is almost no soil development on these bedrock cliffs except where shallow mineral and organic deposits accumulate along the narrow cliff summit and ledges, in crevices in the cliff face, and at the base of the cliff. Clay bluff is characterized by eroding alkaline clays. Although these Lakeshore Cliff/Bluff systems experience high levels of...

    • INLAND CLIFF GROUP
      (pp. 314-332)

      Inland Cliffs are sparsely vegetated communities on vertical or near-vertical inland exposures of bedrock occurring primarily in northern Michigan but also locally in the southern Lower Peninsula. Bedrock types that support Inland Cliffs include limestone, sandstone, granite, and volcanics. There is almost no soil development on the cliffs except where shallow mineral and organic deposits accumulate along the narrow cliff summit and ledges, in crevices in the cliff face, and at the base of the cliff . Plant growth and establishment are limited by the lack of suitable substrate, constant erosion, and exposure to wind, ice, and desiccating conditions.

      Four...

  10. SUBTERRANEAN/SINK CLASS

    • KARST GROUP
      (pp. 334-340)

      The Subterranean/Sink class includes natural communities that occur in karst landscapes below the general land surface. These karst features form from the underground dissolution of limestone, dolomite, or gypsum. The Subterranean/Sink class includes one ecological group, Karst. This ecological group includes two natural community types, cave and sinkhole, which are distinguished based on their distinct landscape settings. A cave is a cavity that has formed beneath the earth’s surface, and a sinkhole is a subsidence or depression in the earth’s surface caused by the dissolution of the surficial bedrock.

      Cave is a naturally occurring cavity beneath the earth’s surface, often...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 341-342)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 343-358)
  13. References
    (pp. 359-362)