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Broad Basins

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About the Broad Basins

The Broad Basins are a region within the Blue Ridge mountains of the Appalachians, consisting of four disjoint basins. The eastern and southwesternmost basins are larger and the central two are small. Most of this region is located in North Carolina, although the southernmost basin stretches considerably into northern Georgia, and has a tiny portion in southeastern Tennessee as well.

This region has a lower elevation than its surroundings and is somewhat flatter. However, the terrain is still hilly and heavily dissected. Relative to the surroundings, the soils here have a greater portion of saprolite (heavily chemically-weathered rock formed deep in soil) and fewer large rocks. Soils tend to be deep, well-drained, and loamy to clayey in texture, mostly red clay soils. The climate here is markedly drier than the surrounding mountains, although still humid and with ample rainfall year-round.

This region was originally mostly forested, with forest types more similar to those in the Piedmont than to those in the nearby higher elevations of the Blue Ridge. Much of the region was originally covered in Appalachian oak forest, with a mix of oaks, formerly American chestnut (Castanea dentata), hickory, pine, tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), birch, and maple. Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana), white oak (Quercus alba), southern red oak (Quercus falcata), black oak (Quercus velutina), and scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), all of which prefer drier conditions, are more common here than in the surrounding higher-elevation areas. Moister sites supported mixed mesophytic forest, with dominant trees including buckeye, American basswood (Tilia americana), tuliptree, and American beech (Fagus grandifolia).

The original forests here have been cleared, but have regrown in many places. Current land use here is mixed: there is still extensive forest, but also pasture, cropland, and urbanization, including both residendial and industrial development. Overall, this region is more populous than most of the Blue Ridge; the largest city here and only one with a metropolitan area of any significant size is Asheville, NC. There are numerous other towns in this region. In the south of this region, damming, overseen by the Tennessee Valley Authority, has created artificial lakes, including Nottelly Lake and Chatuge lake.

This region is mostly surrounded by the Southern Crystalline Ridges and Mountains, except to the west of the southernmost basin, which is surrounded by the Southern Metasedimentary Mountains.

References

1. Comstock, J.A.; Griffith, G.E.; Omernik, J.M. "Ecoregions of North Carolina: Regional Descriptions", (2002) Web.

2. 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.