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Southeastern Coastal Plain and Piedmont - More Information

Background information on DU's Southeastern Coastal Plain and Piedmont conservation priority area
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The Southeastern Coastal Plain (Region 22*) extends from the James River in Virginia, southward to approximately Jacksonville, Florida, westward through south central Georgia and Alabama, through roughly the eastern half of Mississippi, and then northward into extreme western Tennessee and Kentucky. It is located between the Piedmont to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The western side of this conservation area is bordered by the MAV, while in Florida; it covers the northern portion above the Peninsular Florida Conservation Region. The southern border is the Gulf of Mexico. Geographically, this conservation region covers a large portion of the extreme southeastern U.S., including portions of two separate NAWMP joint ventures – the Atlantic Coast JV (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida only) and the Gulf Coast JV (coastal Alabama and Mississippi only).

The Piedmont Bird Conservation Region, which is located north and west of the SCP, also will be treated in this section of the Conservation Plan. This conservation region includes the Appalachian Piedmont (foothills) and southeastern plains that are dominated by pine (primarily loblolly and long leaf, some short leaf) and mixed pine hardwood forest. Minor alluvial plains are associated with many small rivers in this region and consist of southern bottomland hardwood forest (oak, tupelo, cypress). This region is located between the Appalachian Bird Conservation Region (BCR) and the Southeastern Coastal Plain BCR.

Important wetlands: Lower Southeastern Coastal Plain

The South Atlantic coastal region encompasses the bays, sounds, and forested/agricultural lowlands of North Carolina (originally treated as part of the Mid-Atlantic Coast in the CCP), which is the second largest estuarine system on the Atlantic coast. It also takes in the pocosins, Carolina bays, swamps, estuarine marshes and former rice producing areas of southern North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and extreme northeastern Florida. Minor alluvial floodplains dominated by bottomland hardwood forest occur throughout this portion of the conservation region (Gordon et al., 1989, Hindman and Stotts 1989, Hodges 1998, Sharitz and Gresham 1998).

Within North Carolina, the most important waterfowl habitat occurs in the Currituck-Abemarle-Pamlico Sounds region (Hindman and Stotts 1989). Land use is predominantly forestry, agriculture, and livestock (poultry and swine), which contribute to non-point source pollution that affects water quality and production of submerged aquatic vegetation in the bays and sounds. In this particular area, submerged aquatics are a very important food source for migrating and wintering waterfowl; hence water quality issues are an important management concern. North Carolina has lost approximately 24% of its original bottomland hardwood forested wetlands, with some 185,625 ha lost between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s (Hefner et al. 1994). Overall, North Carolina has lost 50% (2.4 million ha) of its original wetlands.

In coastal North Carolina, conversion of forested wetlands to agriculture and livestock operations is the primary causes of habitat loss (Hefner et al. 1994). While on one hand this conversion has had negative effects on water quality and aquatic vegetation production, it also has made available waste grain as a food source for wintering and migrant waterfowl. However, the net effect on waterfowl carrying capacity in this portion of the region is unknown, but likely has declined. Habitat within the bays and sounds has suffered moderate to severe degradation and subsequent loss of aquatic vegetation has affected waterfowl populations in the region.

Land use and habitat from Cape Lookout, NC, through extreme northeastern Florida, is similar to eastern North Carolina in many respects. Predominant land uses are agriculture and forestry. South Carolina has suffered a net loss of 1% or 24,686 ha of wetlands from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s (Hefner et al. 1994). Losses primarily are related to development pressure on the coast and immediately inland as people move to find jobs in the tourism-related service industries. Up until about 1900, rice agriculture provided substantial waterfowl habitat. Today, rice is not grown commercially in the region, but in many cases former rice plantations have been purchased, infrastructure renovated, and they are now managed for waterfowl and other wildlife (Gordon et al. 1989).

*Region 22 - NABCI Conservation Regions 27, 29

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