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Western Highland Rim

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About the Western Highland Rim

The Western Highland Rim is a portion of the Interior Plateau located mostly in Tennessee, but extending slightly into western Kentucky and northern Alabama.

This region consists of weakly dissected, rolling terrain, with irregular plains and open hills. The bedrock consists mostly of chert, cherty limestone, and calcareous silicastone, with some shale. Soils here tend to be acidic and low-to-moderate in fertility, with more fertile, neutral soils formed on the more calcium-rich substrates.

This region was mostly covered in oak-hickory forests, with some presence of species from the more moisture-rich mixed mesophytic forests to the east. Dominant tree species included white oak (Quercus alba), various hickories (Carya sp.), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), black oak (Quercus velutina), tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and red maple (Acer rubrum). Floodplains and bottomlands supported pin oak (Quercus palustris), American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), hickories (Carya sp.), red maple, American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), and elm.

Presently, this region is still mostly forested, owing to its soils which are poorly-suited to Western agriculture; there is some pastureland and cropland, mainly on the flatter terraces of rivers and larger streams, and on the flatter uplands that are most common in the southernmost portions of this region. The region produces hay, cattle, and some corn and tobacco. Recently-abandoned agriculture supports growth of broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus) and sumacs (Rhus sp.), which develops into early-successional forest of eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). Most of this region is sparsely populated, but it contains the city of Clarksville, TN, and the smaller cities of Dickson, TN and Lawrenceburg, TN, and a number of small towns.

This region is bordered to the east by the Outer Nashville Basin, a region with much more fertile soils, and to the north by the Western Pennyroyal Karst Plain, a flatter region, also with highly fertile soils. The region is bordered to the south by the Eastern Highland Rim. To the west, this region is bordered by the Northern Hilly Gulf Coastal Plain over most of its length, by the Transition Hills in the south, and by the Loess Plains in the north, except at the extreme north where there is a small border with the Wabash-Ohio Bottomlands.

References

1. 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.

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