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Ohio/Kentucky Carboniferous Plateau

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About the Ohio/Kentucky Carboniferous Plateau

The Ohio/Kentucky Carboniferous Plateau is a fairly long and narrow section of the Western Allegheny Plateau, oriented mostly north-south and slightly east-west, stretching from southeast Ohio into northeast Kentucky. This region is hilly and rich in fossil fuels, and coal mining has had major environmental impacts on the region.

This region is underlain by sandstone, shale, siltstone, limestone, and coal. The far northwest also has highly leached glacial till from the old Illinoian glaciation; this region was not recently glaciated. This area is shaped by the Teays river, an ancient river that drained much of the Ohio river watershed prior to glaciation. Although this river no longer exists, its valleys are still an important feature in this region, and have different soils from the newer valleys that formed prior to glaciation.

Natural vegetation here was mixed oak forest over most of the area, with mixed mesophytic forests in the wide, clay-rich Teays river valleys, and beech forests in the area where the Hocking river watershed intersects this region.

This area is still heavily forested, but its ecosystems have been degraded by coal mining, which have caused stream acidification. Current forest cover is mostly mixed oak forests with some red maple as an understory plant. Ravines support hemlock-hardwood forests, and floodplains and swamps have red maple-ash forests. There is a small amount of general farming and livestock production in the valleys. There is significant coal mining and gas production throughout the region, and in the north, there are also oil wells.

This region is bordered to the east by the Monongahela Transition Zone, and to the north by the Unglaciated Upper Muskingum Basin. In Ohio, it is bordered to the west by the Knobs-Lower Scioto Dissected Plateau, and in a small border to the northwest by the Low Lime Drift Plain and an even shorter border with the Loamy High Lime Till Plains. In Kentucky, it is bordered to the south by the Dissected Appalachian Plateau, to the northwest by the Carter Hills, and southwest of that, the Northern Forested Plateau Escarpment. At its far southern end, there is a small border to the southwest with the Cumberland Plateau and a tiny border to the west with the Plateau Escarpment.


1. Woods, A.J, Omernik, J.M., Brockman, C.S., Gerber, T.D., Hosteter, W.D., Azevedo, S.H. "Ecoregions of Indiana and Ohio (Poster)", US Geological Survey (1998) Web.

2. Woods, A.J., Omernik, J.M., Martin, W.H., Pond, G.J., Andrews, W.M., Call, S.M, Comstock, J.A., and Taylor, D.D. "Ecoregions of Kentucky (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (2002) Web.