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Northern (Vermont) Piedmont

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About the Northern (Vermont) Piedmont

The Northern (Vermont) Piedmont is the northerly counterpart to the Vermont Piedmont, geologically similar, but distinguished by its colder climate. It is referred to in some documents just by the name Northern Piedmont, which can be confusing as it is distinct from the main Northern Piedmont region, a broader (level 3) region located much farther southwest in Virginia through New York.

This region consists of hills and open low mountains, with some river valleys with a rolling topography. There are numerous natural ponds and lakes, as well as artificial reservoirs. The geology here is a bit simpler than in the southern part of the Vermont Piedmont; the bedrock is a mix of limestone, phyllite (metamorphosed slate), mica schist, quartzite, slate, and some areas of granitic gneiss. The region is covered in sandy and loamy glacial till, which is discontinuous in the hillier areas but completely covering lower areas.

The climate here is towards the colder end of a humid continental climate, with more seasonality of precipitation than is typical for New England: the wettest month, in summer, has around twice the total precipitation of the driest month in winter, mostly driven by the colder winter temperatures. The growing season ranges from 100-140 days.

This region was originally covered with northern hardwood forest, with some lowland spruce-fir forest. Northern hardwood forests here featured American beech, yellow birch, and sugar maple as dominant trees, with some red maple, white ash, American basswood, and red spruce. Some regions also included eastern hemlock as a co-dominant tree. Higher elevations on mountains featured spruce-fir forest. Wetlands supported spruce-fir-tamarack on boggier sites, and on other sites, red maple-black ash swamps or red-maple-northern white cedar swamps.

There is significant agriculture here, including pastureland, production of hay and feed corn, some vegetables, and oats. In the lower, flatter areas, agriculture is the dominant land use, although it is interspersed with large, often connected pieces of forest. In other parts of this region, there are large, unbroken tracts of forest. Forest cover has increased with the abandonment of agriculture, and there is a mix of deciduous, mixed, and evergreen forests here. Although most of Vermont is sparsely populated, this region includes both Montpelier and Barre, two of the larger towns, in an area with several other smaller towns nearby.

This region is bordered to the west by the higher-elevation Green Mountains/Berkshire Highlands, to the northeast by the Quebec/New England Boundary Mountains, to the east by the Northern Connecticut Valley, and to the south by the Vermont Piedmont.

References

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.