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Cattaraugus Hills

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About the Cattaraugus Hills

The Cattaraugus Hills are a small region in western New York state. It shares some similarities with both the Glaciated Low Allegheny Plateau and the Finger Lakes region.

The region resembles that of the Glaciated Low Allegheny Plateau, but with lower, broader hills. There are also areas where streams have cut deeply into the bedrock, as in the finger Lakes region, but in this area, the gorges have not been as extensively widened or deepened by glaciation. In this region, the lack of glacial moraines blocking drainage has caused these channels to drain into Lake Erie rather than hold their water in lakes.

Natural forest cover here is mostly Northern Hardwood forest, with dominant tree species being sugar maple, American beech, eastern white pine, white oak, northern red oak, and chestnut oak. Mountain laurel and mapleleaf viburnum were important understory shrubs. Fine-textured soils have a different community, with cucumber maple, red maple, white ash, and black birch. On shale cliffs and exposed, rocky slopes, undercut by streams, a more specialized community of red cedar, mountain maple, white ash, and slippery elm can be found. The region also contains some fens, a wetland with less acidity and more biodiversity than bogs; fens here contain red maple, speckled alder (Alnus incana), green ash, and larch or tamarack.

The climate is humid and continental, with a growing season of 110-150 days. There is some lake influence on climate, mainly through higher winter precipitation, with less moderation of winter temperatures; the lake effect is strongest closest to the lake and minimal farther inland.

Current land use is a patchwork of forest and agriculture, which includes both pasture and cropland. Agriculture is mostly dairy and livestock production, with some production of forage crops. There are some natural gas fields throughout the area. The area is not densely populated, but there are numerous small towns, most with populations of a few thousand people each. Forests exist in long, narrow stretches between areas of farmland, as well as smaller fragments interspersed with farmland. The center of the region is more forested than the east and west ends.

This region borders the slightly more rugged Glaciated Low Allegheny Plateau to the south, the climactically-moderate Erie/Ontario Lake Plain to the northwest, the Ontario Lowlands to the north, and the Finger Lakes Uplands and Gorges region to the east. Overall this region is more similar to the areas east and south than to those north and west.

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.