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Southern Table Plateaus

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About the Southern Table Plateaus

The Southern Table Plateaus are a region towards the southern end of the Southwestern Appalachians, extending from a small area in northwestern Georgia into northeastern Alabama. This region includes several named peaks, including Sand Mountain, Lookout Mountain, and Brindley Mountain. It consists of three discontinuous pieces, the easternmost piece separated by low-lying valleys of the Ridge and Valley system, and the western two pieces separated by the Sequatchie Valley.

This region is moderate in elevation, lower than the Cumberland plateau, and is relatively flat, with less dissection than neighboring areas. Elevations range from 700-2,300 feet, with local relief of 100-400 feet, but most of the flatter parts of the region range from 1,000 to 1,800 feet. The topoography tends to be gently rolling, and weakly to moderately dissected by streams of low-to-moderate gradients. The region is underlain by quartzose sandstone, conglomerate, siltstone, shale, and coal. Most soils are formed on sandy decomposition residuum from the sandstone. This region gently slopes downward towards the southwest.

The original vegetation here was mostly oak-hickory forest, with some mixed mesophytic forest in ravines and gorges.

Presently, this region is mostly forested in the northeast, but there is significant agriculture, both cropland and pastureland, on the flatter lands towards the lower-elevation parts of this region in the southwest. The region is a major poultry producer, and also produces corn, soybeans, potatoes, tomatoes, and hay. There are also a few small areas of coal mining. The northeast of this region is sparsely populated, with only a few small towns, but the region becomes more populous to the southwest; the largest cities are Albertville, AL and Cullman, AL. Even in the more agricultural regions, some forest remains, mostly on the steeper terrain along streams.

This region is mostly surrounded by the Plateau Escarpment, a transitional region to areas of lower elevation, with steep ravines and rugged topography. In the southwest, where the elevations are lower and there is no well-defined escarpment, it directly borders the Sequatchie Valley. At its southernmost end, this region borders the Dissected Plateau, a similar region but that is more rugged and heavily-dissected. There is also a small border to the southwest with the Shale Hills, and an area where two parts of this region are separated by a narrow area of the more agriculturally-fertile Southern Limestone/Dolomite Valleys and Low Rolling Hills of the Ridge and Valley system.

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.