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Ecoregions of Maryland

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About the Ecoregions of Maryland

Maryland is one of the U.S. states whose borders coincide least with ecological boundaries. Although the entire state resides within the Eastern Temperate Forests region, looking at subregions the state covers quite diverse regions for its small size.

The narrow western portion of the state cuts close-to-perpendicularly across many layers of the Appalachians, starting in the Central Appalachians, moving through the diverse strata of the Ridge and Valley region, and containing a narrow portion of the Blue Ridge. All of these Appalachian ecoregions have only small portions in Maryland, and are mostly located outside the state. This part of the state is higher-elevation and dominated by low mountains and ridges. Higher elevations are mostly forested, but there is extensive farmland in the broader valleys.

The rest of the state has slightly broader, more regular regions. The rest of state is split between the Southeastern USA Plains in the center of the state (including both the Northern Piedmont and the Southeastern Plains) and the Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain farther southeast.

The only region particularly special to Maryland and no other states is the Chesapeake Rolling Coastal Plain; this region is located almost entirely within the state, except for small portions stretching just into Delaware and Virginia, and the portion contained in Washington D.C. This region stretches over most of what is called Southern Maryland and also extends in a narrower stretch northeast through the state. Much of the urban and suburban development in Maryland lives within this region, although there is significant farmland and forest cover as well.

The other major regions in Maryland are the Piedmont Uplands which extend quite a ways northeast and southwest of the state, the Chesapeake-Pamlico Lowlands and Tidal Marshes which extend south well into North Carolina, and the Delmarva Uplands, which Maryland shares with Delaware. The Piedmont Uplands region is extensively farmed, with some suburban development and some forest. Outside of the Atlantic shoreline, the parts of Maryland east of the Chesapeake bay are mostly sparsely populated. The Chesapeake bay is a central feature, and the state is home to some of the most extensive wetlands, tidal marshes, and estuarine ecosystems on the east coast.

References

1. Woods, A.J, Omernik, J.M., Brown, D.D. "Level III and IV Ecoregions of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR (1999) Web.