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Ecoregions of Rhode Island

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NameColor on Map
Southern New England Coastal Plains and Hills
Narragansett/Bristol Lowland
Cape Cod/Long Island
Long Island Sound Coastal Lowland

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About the Ecoregions of Rhode Island

Rhode Island is a small state in New England. It can be divided into four distinct ecoregions. The major division is between Block Island, the island off the Rhode Island coast, and the rest of the state. The state's boundaries do not correspond well to ecological boundaries, and all of the regions here extend well outside of the state.

Block Island is considered part of the Cape Cod/Long Island region, as it is part of the same geologic formation, with sandy soils originating as glacial moraines and outwash. The island's climate is intermediate between an oceanic and a humid subtropical climate, similar to that of the end of Long Island, but more moderate. This region has a small portion of protected land as Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Rodman's Hollow, a preserve administered by the Nature Conservancy, featuring a unique maritime shrubland community.

The rest of the state is all part of the Northeastern Coastal Zone, and the three other regions of the state are more ecologically similar to each other, although the coastal areas do share some qualities in common with Block Island.

The Long Island Sound Coastal Lowland extends along a small strip of coast in the western portion of the state; it has soils mostly formed on glacial till, and a climate moderated by the ocean. This region extends outside the state quite far to the west, and only has a small portion in Rhode Island.

The eastern portion of the state is occupied by the Narragansett/Bristol Lowland, which extends well outside the state to the east. This region has numerous bays, estuaries, islands, and peninsulas, and is underlain by sedimentary rocks. It also has a water-moderated climate.

The inland western portion of the state is part of the Southern New England Coastal Plains and Hills, and is the most rocky, upland part of the state. It is underlain by metamorphic rock shaped by glaciation. It is slightly colder than the rest of the state, and has both a climate, terrain, and vegetation more typical of the rest of New England.


1. Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Bryce, S.A., Royte, J., Hoar, W.D., Homer, J.W., Keirstead, D., Metzler, K.J., and Hellyer, G. "Ecoregions of New England (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey (2009) Web.