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Southern Sedimentary Ridges

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About the Southern Sedimentary Ridges

The Southern Sedimentary Ridges are a section of the Blue Ridge mountains, representing a counterpart to the Northern Sedimentary and Metasedimentary Ridges farther north. This region is narrow and discontinuous, broken in many places, and extends on-and-off from Roanoke, VA southwest through most of Tennessee.

This region consists of high, steeply sloping ridges, and deep, narrow valleys. Elevations tend to reach higher here than in the northern part of this region. Ridgetops are underlain by erosion resistant sandstone and quartzite, whereas side-slopes are made of a more easily-erodible blend of phyllite, shale, siltstone, and sandstone; some of the lowest elevations barely reach to underlying limestone substrates. Through most of the region, soils tend to be loamy to sandy loams, with some sandstone rock fragments, and tend to be nutrient-poor.

This region was originally covered by a mix of Appalachian Oak forest, with northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and white oak (Quercus alba) as dominant, alongside some hickory, pine, poplar, birch, and maple. Higher elevations, especially on cooler north- and east-facing slopes, supported northern hardwood forests with sugar maple (Acer saccharum), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) as dominants. The southern portions of this region supported some mixed mesophytic forest as well, with beech, buckeye, american basswood (Tilia americana), and tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera). There was also some pine on the drier sites, especially in the south.

This area is still extensively forested. There are large, contiguous tracts of forest, some of which have few roads through them. Much of the land here is public and protected, including Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. There is some forestry, and the land is also used for recreation and hunting.

In the north, this region is bordered to the southeast by the New River Plateau, which is both much flatter and slightly lower in elevation. South of this, it borders the Southern Crystalline Ridges and Mountains to the southeast, a region that tends to reach slightly lower elevations, and be much more finely-dissected. In the south, this region is bordered to the southeast by the Southern Metasedimentary Mountains.

The borders to the northwest are with the Ridge and Valley region. In most places, this region borders the Southern Limestone/Dolomite Valleys and Low Rolling Hills, a low, flat, heavily-farmed area with fertile soils for Western agriculture. Some parts instead border the Southern Shale Valleys, a lowland area with poorer, more easily-erodible soils. A few places also border the Southern Dissected Ridges and Knobs, a relatively rugged upland area, slightly lower elevation than here, with more broken ridges and isolated peaks.

References

1. Woods, A.J, Omernik, J.M., Brown, D.D. "Level III and IV Ecoregions of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR (1999) Web.

2. Griffith, G.E.; Omernik, J.M.; and Azevedo, S.H. "Ecoregions of Tennessee (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (1998) Web.