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Dougherty Plain

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About the Dougherty Plain

The Dougherty Plain, also referred to in some documents as the Dougherty/Marianna Plains is a broad region within the Southeastern Plains, extending from southeast Alabama and the northern part of the Florida Panhandle northeast into southwestern Georgia.

This region consists mostly of irregular plains, with some flatter plains, lightly dissected by a network of mostly slow-moving streams. The area is underlain by limestone, and mostly covered by clayey sand solution residuum with chert blocks, derived from this limestone. The warm, humid climate has led the weathered surface soils here to be highly leached, unlike limestone-derived soils farther north. However, the depth of sands and clays is highly variable, ranging from over 200 feet in some areas, to very thin in others, with the limestone bedrock being exposed on some sites.

There are significant areas of karst topography, especially in Florida's portion of this region, with sinkholes, caves, and springs. The water table tends to be close to the surface throughout much of this region, and as a result many of the sinkholes fill with water to form ponds or small lakes. The pH of these lakes can vary widely based on its distance from bedrock; lakes separated from the bedrock by thick layers of leached sands and clays tend to be acidic, whereas ones in contact with bedrock and/or fed by springs in contact with the bedrock tend to be high in pH and mineral-rich.

This region was originally covered is southern mixed forest, with cypress swamps around the sinkholes and small lakes.

Nowadays this area has been mostly cleared for agriculture, and there are also some pine plantations. The region is one of the more agriculturally-fertile regions in the southeast, and is rather diversified, producing corn, peanuts, cotton, pecans, sorghum, and poultry. Small amounts of wild forest remain, mostly along streams. There is also some protected public land, much of it managed for hunting. Such land includes Miller County, Elmodel, and Chickasawhatchee WMA's (Wildlife Management Areas) in Georgia, and in Florida, Upper Chipola WMA and Florida Caverns State Park. There is some urbanization; this area contains much of the Albany, GA metro area, and the entire Dothan, AL metro area. There are also numerous small towns throughout. One lake, Lake DeFuniak, has been completely surrounded by urbanization, in the town of DeFuniak Springs, FL.

This region is bordered to the west and south by the Southern Pine Plains and Hills, a region that tends to be hillier and contain less limestone; the border, however, is gradual and not well-defined. There is one small area in Florida where it directly borders the Gulf Coast Flatwoods to the south. The west of this region is bordered to the north by the Southern Hilly Gulf Coastal Plain, a significantly hillier region with greater topographic diversity overall; this border is well-defined, marked by a shift in underlying geology. In the east, this region is bordered to the northwest by the Coastal Plain Red Uplands; this border is less distinct topographically. The east of this region is bordered to the southeast by the Tifton Upland and in a small area to the east by the Atlantic Southern Loam Plains.

References

1. Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Comstock, J.A., Lawrence, S., Martin, G., Goddard, A., Hulcher, V.J., and Foster, T. "Ecoregions of Alabama and Georgia (color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs)", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (2001) Web.