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Ecoregions of New York

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About the Ecoregions of New York

New York is the largest state by area in the northeastern U.S., and one that spans many different broad regions, stretching from the great lakes of Erie and Ontario to the Atlantic ocean. The state is home to numerous mountain ranges with diverse geologies: it contains part of the Appalachian mountains, the entirety of the geologically-distinct Adirondacks, and the entirety of the smaller but still quite high-elevation Catskills. The state also contains part of the Allegheny Plateau, and the eastern border of the state lines up roughly with the Taconic Mountains; the rest of the state consists of numerous, flatter lowland regions. Unlike nearby Pennsylvania, where many of the ecoregions are narrow and irregularly-oriented, New York has larger, continugous blocks of ecoregions. Due to a combination of glaciation and high rainfall, the entire state is filled with lakes and wetlands of varying sizes. The state's northern and eastern borders correspond more to ecological boundaries than its southern border.

Broadly, the state is divided between the Eastern Temperate Forests, which cover the bulk of the state, and the Northern Forests, conifer-dominated regions at higher elevations. New York exists at a latitude and climate zone at which the boundary between these two regions occurs at moderate elevations. Much farther south, temperate forests extent even to high elevations, and much farther north, northern forests exent to low elevations.

Most of the state has a humid continental climate; the far southeast of the state, including Long Island, the areas around New York City, and slightly inland, have a humid subtropical climate. The highest elevations in the Adirondacks have a harsher alpine climate. The mountains in the state are tall enough to produce dramatic changes in total precipitation due to orographic lift and also lake effect from lakes Erie and Ontario. Precipitation is under 35 inches annually in lowlands, especially those in rain shadow of the major mountain ranges, but reaches upwards of 60 inches annually at high elevations in the Adirondacks and a the highest parts of the Catskills.

There are numerous ecoregions unique to, and only found within New York State. These include the Finger Lakes Uplands and Gorges region, and two lowland regions, the Mohawk Valley the Hudson Valley. Among the more mountainous and upland regions, areas unique to New York State include the Catskill High Peaks and its surrounding transitional zone, the Tug Hill Plateau and its surrounding transitional zone, and various regions of the Adirondacks, and in the east, the Rensselaer Plateau. The Adirondacks are particularly diverse, being divided into the Northern and Western Foothills, Eastern Foothills, the Acid Sensitive Region, the Central Region, the High Peaks, and the Alpine Zone.

Around the borders of the state, numerous regions extend into other U.S. states and Canadian provinces. The Erie/Ontario Lake Plain extends into Ohio and Ontario and the Low Lime Drift Plain extends into Ohio. Looking eastward, the Unglaciated High Allegheny Plateau represents the only portion of the state to escape recent glaciation. This, and the Glaciated Allegheny Hills, Glaciated Low Allegheny Plateau, Delaware-Neversink Highlands, and Low Poconos all cover significant portions of New York state while also extending into Pennsylvania.

Following the border southeastward, the narrow bands of the Appalachian Ridge and Valley system reach their final end in New York. The portions here are all glaciated, as the northern limit of glaciation lies farther southwest in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Northern Glaciated Limestone Ridges, Valleys, and Terraces leaves the state to straddle the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. South of this, the Northern Glaciated Ridges extend into New Jersey as well, followed by the Northern Glaciated Shale and Slate Valleys, and the Northern Glaciated Limestone Valleys. The Glaciated Reading Prong/Hudson Highlands represents a different geologic formation that produces rugged uplands that are mostly forested; past this, the Glaciated Triassic Lowlands make up a heavily developed region that makes up most of New York City's western suburbs. A few ridges of the Trap Rock and Conglomerate Uplands cut through this region.

Long Island features Barrier Islands and Coastal Marshes which extend along the length of New Jersey as well, and farther inland, the Cape Cod / Long Island region, as its name suggests, extends north out of the state to include Cape Cod. The innermost part of Long Island also contains part of the Long Island Sound Coastal Lowland, which also extend along the southern coast of Connecticut.

The eastern border of New York State cuts through many different ecoregions that also extend into Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. The Southern New England Coastal Plains and Hills, Berkshire Transition, Western New England Marble Valleys, Taconic Foothills, and Taconic Mountains are all split between New York state and the various three bordering states of New England. At the northeast, the Champlain Lowlands extend into northwestern Vermont and southern Quebec.

At the northern end of the state, also shared with Quebec, are the Upper St. Lawrence Valley and St. Lawrence Lowlands. Southwest of this, the Ontario Lowlands also extend into Ontario.

References

1. Bryce, S.A., Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Edinger, G., Indrick, S., Vargas, O., and Carlson, D. "Ecoregions of New York (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey (2010) Web.