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Eastern Highland Rim Acidic Seepage Prairie

Synonyms

Eastern Highland Rim Praire and Barrens Ecological System (NatureServe 2015)

Distribution

Eastern middle Tennessee (Putnam, White counties) where known from two small sites in the Eastern Highland Rim ecoregion (Estes & Fleming 2015). Possibly historically more widespread in the other EHR counties farther south, especially Warren and Coffee and possibly southern Cannon counties. However farther south the EHR becomes flatter whereas the northern section is rolling, which is more conducive to the formation of hillslope seeps.

Vegetation Description

Sedges, grasses, and forbs dominate this small patch community and vegetation height ranges from 0.25 – 1.5 m. Scattered shrubs and tree saplings (red maple and sweetgum) may be present.

Physical Characterization

This community occurs in the rolling north-central section of the Eastern Highland Rim ecoregion (Estes & Fleming 2015) on gentle hillslopes that drain into first-order sluggish streams that meander through meadows. Elevations range from 298-304 m (980-1000 ft). Slopes range from 2-12%. The bedrock consists of Paleozoic Mississippian-aged limestone of the St. Louis and Warsaw formations. Karst formations are common in this section of the EHR as evidenced by the large number of karst depressions on the landscape.

The soils of the rolling uplands of the area are formed from a mantle of loess over clayey or loamy alluvium, of Pliocene-Pleistocene age that, in turn, overlays the limestone bedrockSeepage occurs at the contact zone between the Bewleyville series and the Guthrie soil series.

These upland soils belong to the Bewleyville silt loam (BeC) series and are classified as thermic Typic Paleudults. They are deep and consist of layers of silt loam, silty clay loam, and clay (28-72 in deep) and the depth to a restrictive layer is generally >80 inches. These uplands are well-drained. Guthrie soils are wetland soils (thermic Fluvaquentic Endoaquepts) associated with topographic depressions that lie immediately downslop of the seep. They are derived from loess and/or loamy alluviu and soils of the Guthrie series range from silt loam in the upper horizons to silty clay loam at lower depths. The sloping seeps are located in dips that transition to more or less level (0-2% slopes) of the adjacent topographic depression. A clay fragipan is present at about 20-35 inches below the surface rendering these sites poorly drained and with a water table typically <12 inches deep. These sites do not flood but may experience occasional ponding. Soil pH ranges from moderately to strongly acid (4.6-5.4).

Soil series involved:

  • BeC- Bewleyville silt loam, 5-12 percent slopes
  • Gu - Guthrie Silt Loam

Natural Processes

This slope-wetland community is supplied by perennial groundwater seepage. There is no evident surface flow, but the soils remain saturated for much of the year at the surface except during the driest portions of the summer and fall. Even then, the deeper soil layers are still saturated due to high water table. Whereas the consistent hydrologic source exerts a controlling influence over the wetland vegetation at these sites, the historical occurrence of widespread fires in this region favored the establishment and maintenance of grassland vegetation as opposed to wooded wetlands. Fire return intervals of 3.2 years have documented for the 1700s through mid-1800s by Stambaugh et al. (2016) from Arnold Airforce Base, Coffee Co., TN, approximately 75 km to the south on the EHR. This frequency of fire would have maintained extensive prairie and savanna in the EHR. The existing sites would likely have had dry prairie just upslope.

Following widespread fire suppression in the mid- to late-1800s, these grasslands would have been maintained by Euroamerican livestock (cattle, horses, sheep) grazing as well as fires set by farmers in the 1800s through mid-1900s. Mowing and in some areas, livestock grazing, has become the primary means of keeping these sites open. The White Co. site has been grazed by horses for many years. Their hoofprints create small microhabitats for sundews, quillworts, and other small plants that have a difficult time competing with taller prairie vegetation.

Dominant Plants

Herbaceous Layer: Andropogon ternarius (splitbeard bluestem), Andropogon virginicus var. decipiens?? (broomsedge), Coleatania longifolia ssp. longifolia (longleaf panic grass), Dichanthelium scoparium (velvet witchgrass), Eleocharis tuberculosa (large tubercled spike-rush), Eriocaulon decangulare (ten-angle pipeworth), Hypericum denticulatum (coppery St. John's-wort), Proserpinaca pectinata (comb-leaf mermaid weed), Rhexia mariana (Maryland meadow-beauty), Rhynchospora capitellata (brownish beaksedge), R. glomerata (clustered beaksedge), Scleria muehlenbergii (Muhlenberg's nutrush), Symphyotrichum racemosum (flexible aster), Xyris ambigua (coastal plain yellow-eyed grass)

Characteristic Plants

Herbaceous Layer: Andropogon ternarius (splitbeard bluestem), Andropogon virginicus var. decipiens?? (broomsedge), Bidens frondosa (devil's beggar-tick), Coleatania longifolia ssp. longifolia (longleaf panic grass), Dichanthelium scoparium (velvet witchgrass), Eleocharis tuberculosa (large tubercled spike-rush), Eriocaulon decangulare (ten-angle pipeworth), Eryngium integrifolium (blue-flowered coyote-thistle), Hypericum denticulatum (coppery St. John's-wort), Juncus canadensis (Canadian rush), J. coriaceus (leathery rush), J. effusus (common rush), J. longii (Long's rush), Proserpinaca pectinata (comb-leaf mermaid weed), Rhexia mariana (Maryland meadow-beauty), Rhynchospora capitellata (brownish beaksedge), R. glomerata (clustered beaksedge), Sabatia campanulata (slender rose-gentian), Scleria muehlenbergii (Muhlenberg's nutrush), Symphyotrichum racemosum (flexible aster), Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed), Xyris ambigua (coastal plain yellow-eyed grass), X. torta (twisted-leaf yellow-eyed grass)

Restricted or Noteworthy Plants

Carex alata (broadwing sedge), Drosera capillaris (pink sundew), D. intermedia (spoonleaf sundew), Eriocaulon decangulare (ten-angle pipeworth), Eryngium integrifolium (blue-flowered coyote-thistle), Fuirena squarrosa (hairy umbrella sedge), Hypericum denticulatum (coppery St. John's-wort), Ludwigia hirtella (Rafinesque's seedbox), Lysimachia terrestris (swamp candles), Mitreola petiolata (lax hornpod), Proserpinaca pectinata (comb-leaf mermaid weed), Rhychospora rariflora (fewflower beaksedge), Scleria muehlenbergii (Muhlenberg's nutrush),  Triadenum virginicum (Virginia marsh St. John's-wort), Xyris ambigua (coastal plain yellow-eyed grass), .

Invasive Species
none documented though Arthraxon hispidus (basket grass) is expected to invade eventually

Community Variation and Subtypes
This community appears to be undescribed in the National Vegetation Classification. The closest described association known in Tennessee is the Highland Rim Wet-Mesic Prairie (see below), which is a G1 community. This seepage prairie community differs from the described type in the absence of big bluestem and little bluestem, its position on hillslopes, and in the lack of association with a clay hardpan.

CEGL004006 Andropogon gerardii - Schizachyrium scoparium - Dichanthelium scoparium - Rhynchospora glomerata Herbaceous Vegetation G1
Highland Rim Wet-Mesic Prairie
Big Bluestem - Little Bluestem - Broom Witchgrass - Clustered Beaksedge Herbaceous Vegetation


Associated Natural Communities

Eastern Highland Rim Acid Wet Meadow, Eastern Highland Rim Oak Savanna

Similar Communities

This community is pretty unique within Tennessee. Floristically, it shares many species in common with other acidic wet to hydroxeric prairies on the Eastern Highland Rim, especially to some found in Coffee and Warren counties to the south. It also bears some similarity to sites on the Cumberland Plateau to the east that are grouped in the Cumberland Wet-Mesic Meadow & Savanna ecological system. Outside of Tennessee, most of the species are found in the Coastal Plain. 

Presettlement Distribution and Size

This small-patch wet grassland is part of once was one of the largest grassland systems in the Mid-South U.S. The larger prairie/savanna matrix probably covered about ____ acres at European settlement. No doubt these small hillslope seepage prairies have always been a minor component but just how much acreage once existed cannot be known. It is likely that >99% of original sites has been eliminated.

The Eastern Highland Rim grasslands once extended from at least Wayne Co., KY (but probably as far north as Lincoln Co., KY) south through TN into north Alabama. These grasslands were documented as early as 1769 by the longhunters on their first expedition into Middle Tennessee. On a journey from Price's Meadow (Wayne Co., KY) south to about the area where the Caney Fork River crosses the EHR, they described the EHR as "...covered with high grass which seemed inexhaustible" (Haywood ___). From the EHR of north Alabama, ___ (___) described the area just south of the Tennessee River as "____."  By the time the first naturalists began to describe the landscape of the EHR in any detail much of it had already been greatly altered. [provide early quotes of former status]. Augustine Gattinger, Tennessee's foremost botanist in the 1800s, spent much time in the "Barrens" of Coffee Co.  

Present Status

This community should be considered highly endangered in Tennessee.

Of the two known examples of this community, the one in White Co. is being considered for acquisition by the State and the other is privately owned. The latter is also within the city limits of Cookeville, TN and is very small and in a site difficult to manage. The White Co. site is part of a proposed 30-acre acquisition and is one of the highest-quality herbaceous wetland sites in the state. If preserved the site will likely be managed with prescribed fire. In its current state, it is being grazed by a few horses. These may play an important role in that their hoofprints create small indentions that fill with water and their margins provide habitat for sundews and other small plants. Future conservation efforts should carefully consider this micro-level diversity and structure.

Representative Sites

White Co.: private property near Hampton's Crossroads (36.051434, -85.503260)


Threats

This habitat is threatened by its small size (particularly the Putnam Co. site), lack of fire. In the recent past the White Co. site has been mowed in the height of the late summer flowering season, something that should be avoided in the future if possible. Invasive species do not presently pose a significant threat although they likely will in the future.

Management Considerations

Prescribed fire is needed to manage the site probably in range of one fire per 1-3 years. Consideration should be given to allowing continued grazing to maintain microhabitats associated with hoofprints. 

Future Research Needs

More floristic research is needed at the two known sites throughout the growing season. The last several visits have each yielded significant new botanical discoveries. Additionally a GIS analysis/remote sensing should be performed to search for other potential sites.

Previous Studies

Synonyms

Eastern Highland Rim Praire and Barrens Ecological System (NatureServe 2015)

Distribution

Eastern middle Tennessee (Putnam, White counties) where known from two small sites in the Eastern Highland Rim ecoregion (Estes & Fleming 2015). Possibly historically more widespread in the other EHR counties farther south, especially Warren and Coffee and possibly southern Cannon counties. However farther south the EHR becomes flatter whereas the northern section is rolling, which is more conducive to the formation of hillslope seeps.

Vegetation Description

Sedges, grasses, and forbs dominate this small patch community and vegetation height ranges from 0.25 – 1.5 m. Scattered shrubs and tree saplings (red maple and sweetgum) may be present.

Physical Characterization

This community occurs in the rolling north-central section of the Eastern Highland Rim ecoregion (Estes & Fleming 2015) on gentle hillslopes that drain into first-order sluggish streams that meander through meadows. Elevations range from 298-304 m (980-1000 ft). Slopes range from 2-12%. The bedrock consists of Paleozoic Mississippian-aged limestone of the St. Louis and Warsaw formations. Karst formations are common in this section of the EHR as evidenced by the large number of karst depressions on the landscape.

The soils of the rolling uplands of the area are formed from a mantle of loess over clayey or loamy alluvium, of Pliocene-Pleistocene age that, in turn, overlays the limestone bedrockSeepage occurs at the contact zone between the Bewleyville series and the Guthrie soil series.

These upland soils belong to the Bewleyville silt loam (BeC) series and are classified as thermic Typic Paleudults. They are deep and consist of layers of silt loam, silty clay loam, and clay (28-72 in deep) and the depth to a restrictive layer is generally >80 inches. These uplands are well-drained. Guthrie soils are wetland soils (thermic Fluvaquentic Endoaquepts) associated with topographic depressions that lie immediately downslop of the seep. They are derived from loess and/or loamy alluviu and soils of the Guthrie series range from silt loam in the upper horizons to silty clay loam at lower depths. The sloping seeps are located in dips that transition to more or less level (0-2% slopes) of the adjacent topographic depression. A clay fragipan is present at about 20-35 inches below the surface rendering these sites poorly drained and with a water table typically <12 inches deep. These sites do not flood but may experience occasional ponding. Soil  pH ranges from moderately to strongly acid (4.6-5.4).

Soil series involved:

Natural Processes

This slope-wetland community is supplied by perennial groundwater seepage. There is no evident surface flow, but the soils remain saturated for much of the year at the surface except during the driest portions of the summer and fall. Even then, the deeper soil layers are still saturated due to high water table. Whereas the consistent hydrologic source exerts a controlling influence over the wetland vegetation at these sites, the historical occurrence of widespread fires in this region favored the establishment and maintenance of grassland vegetation as opposed to wooded wetlands. Fire return intervals of 3.2 years have documented for the 1700s through mid-1800s by Stambaugh et al. (2016) from Arnold Airforce Base, Coffee Co., TN, approximately 75 km to the south on the EHR. This frequency of fire would have maintained extensive prairie and savanna in the EHR. The existing sites would likely have had dry prairie just upslope.

Following widespread fire suppression in the mid- to late-1800s, these grasslands would have been maintained by Euroamerican livestock (cattle, horses, sheep) grazing as well as fires set by farmers in the 1800s through mid-1900s. Mowing and in some areas, livestock grazing, has become the primary means of keeping these sites open. The White Co. site has been grazed by horses for many years. Their hoofprints create small microhabitats for sundews, quillworts, and other small plants that have a difficult time competing with taller prairie vegetation.

Dominant Plants

Herbaceous Layer: Andropogon ternarius (splitbeard bluestem), Andropogon virginicus var. decipiens?? (broomsedge), Coleatania longifolia ssp. longifolia (longleaf panic grass), Dichanthelium scoparium (velvet witchgrass), Eleocharis tuberculosa (large tubercled spike-rush), Eriocaulon decangulare (ten-angle pipeworth), Hypericum denticulatum (coppery St. John's-wort), Proserpinaca pectinata (comb-leaf mermaid weed), Rhexia mariana (Maryland meadow-beauty), Rhynchospora capitellata (brownish beaksedge), R. glomerata (clustered beaksedge), Scleria muehlenbergii (Muhlenberg's nutrush), Symphyotrichum racemosum (flexible aster), Xyris ambigua (coastal plain yellow-eyed grass)

Characteristic Plants

Herbaceous Layer: Andropogon ternarius (splitbeard bluestem), Andropogon virginicus var. decipiens?? (broomsedge), Bidens frondosa (devil's beggar-tick), Coleatania longifolia ssp. longifolia (longleaf panic grass), Dichanthelium scoparium (velvet witchgrass), Eleocharis tuberculosa (large tubercled spike-rush), Eriocaulon decangulare (ten-angle pipeworth), Eryngium integrifolium (blue-flowered coyote-thistle), Hypericum denticulatum (coppery St. John's-wort), Juncus canadensis (Canadian rush), J. coriaceus (leathery rush), J. effusus (common rush), J. longii (Long's rush), Proserpinaca pectinata (comb-leaf mermaid weed), Rhexia mariana (Maryland meadow-beauty), Rhynchospora capitellata (brownish beaksedge), R. glomerata (clustered beaksedge), Sabatia campanulata (slender rose-gentian), Scleria muehlenbergii (Muhlenberg's nutrush), Symphyotrichum racemosum (flexible aster), Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed), Xyris ambigua (coastal plain yellow-eyed grass), X. torta (twisted-leaf yellow-eyed grass)

Restricted or Noteworthy Plants

Carex alata (broadwing sedge), Drosera capillaris (pink sundew), D. intermedia (spoonleaf sundew), Eriocaulon decangulare (ten-angle pipeworth), Eryngium integrifolium (blue-flowered coyote-thistle), Fuirena squarrosa (hairy umbrella sedge), Hypericum denticulatum (coppery St. John's-wort), Ludwigia hirtella (Rafinesque's seedbox), Lysimachia terrestris (swamp candles), Mitreola petiolata (lax hornpod), Proserpinaca pectinata (comb-leaf mermaid weed), Rhychospora rariflora (fewflower beaksedge), Scleria muehlenbergii (Muhlenberg's nutrush),  Triadenum virginicum (Virginia marsh St. John's-wort), Xyris ambigua (coastal plain yellow-eyed grass), .

Invasive Species
none documented though Arthraxon hispidus (basket grass) is expected to invade eventually

Community Variation and Subtypes
This community appears to be undescribed in the National Vegetation Classification. The closest described association known in Tennessee is the Highland Rim Wet-Mesic Prairie (see below), which is a G1 community. This seepage prairie community differs from the described type in the absence of big bluestem and little bluestem, its position on hillslopes, and in the lack of association with a clay hardpan.

CEGL004006 Andropogon gerardii - Schizachyrium scoparium - Dichanthelium scoparium - Rhynchospora glomerata Herbaceous Vegetation G1
Highland Rim Wet-Mesic Prairie
Big Bluestem - Little Bluestem - Broom Witchgrass - Clustered Beaksedge Herbaceous Vegetation


Associated Natural Communities

Eastern Highland Rim Acid Wet Meadow, Eastern Highland Rim Oak Savanna

Similar Communities

This community is pretty unique within Tennessee. Floristically, it shares many species in common with other acidic wet to hydroxeric prairies on the Eastern Highland Rim, especially to some found in Coffee and Warren counties to the south. It also bears some similarity to sites on the Cumberland Plateau to the east that are grouped in the Cumberland Wet-Mesic Meadow & Savanna ecological system. Outside of Tennessee, most of the species are found in the Coastal Plain. 

Presettlement Distribution and Size

This small-patch wet grassland is part of once was one of the largest grassland systems in the Mid-South U.S. The larger prairie/savanna matrix probably covered about ____ acres at European settlement. No doubt these small hillslope seepage prairies have always been a minor component but just how much acreage once existed cannot be known. It is likely that >99% of original sites has been eliminated.

The Eastern Highland Rim grasslands once extended from at least Wayne Co., KY (but probably as far north as Lincoln Co., KY) south through TN into north Alabama. These grasslands were documented as early as 1769 by the longhunters on their first expedition into Middle Tennessee. On a journey from Price's Meadow (Wayne Co., KY) south to about the area where the Caney Fork River crosses the EHR, they described the EHR as "...covered with high grass which seemed inexhaustible" (Haywood ___). From the EHR of north Alabama, ___ (___) described the area just south of the Tennessee River as "____."  By the time the first naturalists began to describe the landscape of the EHR in any detail much of it had already been greatly altered. [provide early quotes of former status]. Augustine Gattinger, Tennessee's foremost botanist in the 1800s, spent much time in the "Barrens" of Coffee Co.  

Present Status

This community should be considered highly endangered in Tennessee.

Of the two known examples of this community, the one in White Co. is being considered for acquisition by the State and the other is privately owned. The latter is also within the city limits of Cookeville, TN and is very small and in a site difficult to manage. The White Co. site is part of a proposed 30-acre acquisition and is one of the highest-quality herbaceous wetland sites in the state. If preserved the site will likely be managed with prescribed fire. In its current state, it is being grazed by a few horses. These may play an important role in that their hoofprints create small indentions that fill with water and their margins provide habitat for sundews and other small plants. Future conservation efforts should carefully consider this micro-level diversity and structure.

Representative Sites

White Co.: private property near Hampton's Crossroads (36.051434, -85.503260)


Threats

This habitat is threatened by its small size (particularly the Putnam Co. site), lack of fire. In the recent past the White Co. site has been mowed in the height of the late summer flowering season, something that should be avoided in the future if possible. Invasive species do not presently pose a significant threat although they likely will in the future.

Management Considerations

Prescribed fire is needed to manage the site probably in range of one fire per 1-3 years. Consideration should be given to allowing continued grazing to maintain microhabitats associated with hoofprints. 

Future Research Needs

More floristic research is needed at the two known sites throughout the growing season. The last several visits have each yielded significant new botanical discoveries. Additionally a GIS analysis/remote sensing should be performed to search for other potential sites.

Previous Studies

The grasslands of the EHR have been discussed by DeSelm (1990, 1994). Sorrie and Weakley (2001) discussed the prevalence of numerous Coastal Plain species in the wet grasslands of he EHR.


References

DeSelm, H. R., and N. Murdock. 1993. Grass-dominated communities. Pages 87-141 in: W. H. Martin, S. G. Boyce, and A. C. Echternacht, editors. Biodiversity of the southeastern United States: Upland terrestrial communities. John Wiley and Sons, New York.

DeSelm, H.R., 1990. Flora and vegetation of some barrens of the eastern Highland Rim of Tennessee. Castanea, pp.187-206.

DeSelm, H.R., 1994. Tennessee barrens. Castanea, pp.214-225.

Geology available at Tennesse Spatial Data Server which can be found at http://www.tngis.org/geology.html which links to a USGS Water Resources Division site: http://water.usgs.gov/lookup/getspatial?geo250k Tennessee Spatial Data Server site notes: Thanks goes to Jim Julian for researching this improved geology layer from the Tennessee Division of Geology. **Note** - The Tennessee Division of Geology does not endorse this coverage, stating this version is still incomplete and not fit for distribution.Noss,

Haywood ___. 1823.

NatureServe. 2014. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed: March 1, 2015).

Soil Survey Staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Web Soil Survey. Available online at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/. Accessed [02/25/2015].

Sorrie, B. and A.S. Weakley. 2001.

USNVC [United States National Vegetation Classification]. 2016. United States National Vegetation Classification Database, V2.0. Federal Geographic Data Committee, Vegetation Subcommittee, Washington DC. [usnvc.org] (accessed 27 Dec 2016)

Floristic Checklist

List compiled by surveys by D. Estes


References

DeSelm, H. R., and N. Murdock. 1993. Grass-dominated communities. Pages 87-141 in: W. H. Martin, S. G. Boyce, and A. C. Echternacht, editors. Biodiversity of the southeastern United States: Upland terrestrial communities. John Wiley and Sons, New York.

DeSelm, H.R., 1990. Flora and vegetation of some barrens of the eastern Highland Rim of Tennessee.  Castanea , pp.187-206.

DeSelm, H.R., 1994. Tennessee barrens. Castanea, pp.214-225.

Geology available at Tennesse Spatial Data Server which can be found at http://www.tngis.org/geology.html which links to a USGS Water Resources Division site: http://water.usgs.gov/lookup/getspatial?geo250k Tennessee Spatial Data Server site notes: Thanks goes to Jim Julian for researching this improved geology layer from the Tennessee Division of Geology. **Note** - The Tennessee Division of Geology does not endorse this coverage, stating this version is still incomplete and not fit for distribution.Noss,

Haywood ___. 1823.

NatureServe. 2014. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed: March 1, 2015).

Soil Survey Staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Web Soil Survey. Available online at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/. Accessed [02/25/2015].

Sorrie, B. and A.S. Weakley. 2001.

USNVC [United States National Vegetation Classification]. 2016. United States National Vegetation Classification Database, V2.0. Federal Geographic Data Committee, Vegetation Subcommittee, Washington DC. [usnvc.org] (accessed 27 Dec 2016)

Floristic Checklist

List compiled by surveys by D. Estes