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Balds

Grass balds are high-elevation grasslands found atop some of the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia, typically over 5,500 feet in elevation. They are dominated by a mix of grasses, sedges, herbaceous species, and shrubs. Surrounding the grass balds are shrub thickets, spruce-fir forests, or northern hardwood forests. Various theories have been posited to explain the origin of grass balds. Theories for their origin have included fire, logging, and grazing. Perhaps the prevailing theory is that they are the remnants of alpine tundra that once extended south during the last Pleistocene ice age. Today the balds are under threat due to shrub encroachment and succession. They are home to many northern species, including several that are significantly disjunct from the Northeast. 

BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS 

METASEDIMENTARY MOUNTAINS ECOREGION

IGNEOUS MOUNTAINS ECOREGION

AMPHIBOLITE MOUNTAINS ECOREGION