Classification of Natural Communities (Fourth Approximation)

Final draft descriptions for the 4th approximation communities are offered for use and feedback. The document is now in final peer review during the summer of 2022, and we solicit comments on the text.

Descriptions are now being grouped by themes. All detailed descriptions of communities within the theme, as well as description of the theme and the key to communities, are contained with the fascicle for the theme.

Detailed descriptions are available at two levels of the classification. Subtypes, the finest level, are the units tracked by the Natural Heritage Program, and are generally equivalent to associations in the National Vegetation Classification (NVC). NVC names are included in the synonymy. Descriptions are also being written for themes, the coarsest level in the 4th approximation. Themes are broad ecological groupings containing several, sometimes numerous, community types and subtypes. Theme descriptions contain material that is common to all or most of the types and subtypes they contain, to avoid repeating this material in multiple subtype descriptions. The user should read both community and theme descriptions for the most complete information.

To contribute input, please send comments to If you have more extensive editorial comments, ask for a word processor version of the text.

Key to 4th Approximation Themes

Title Date Updated
*4th Approximation Introduction 1
*Key to 4th Approximation Themes 2
*4th Approximation Index 3
Spruce-Fir Forests fascicle 4 6/23/2022
Grass and Heath Balds fascicle 5 5/2/2022
Northern Hardwood Forests fascicle 6 5/2/2022
Mountain Cove Forests fascicle 7 5/2/2022
Piedmont and Coastal Plain Mesic Forests fascicle 8 5/2/2022
Mountain Dry Coniferous Woodlands fascicle 9 6/23/2022
Mountain Oak Forests fascicle 10 5/2/2022
Piedmont and Coastal Plain Oak Forests fascicle 11 6/23/2022
High Elevation Rock Outcrops fascicle 12 6/27/2022
Low Elevation Cliffs and Rock Outcrops fascicle 13 5/2/2022
Coastal Plain Marl Outcrops fascicle 14 5/2/2022
Granitic Flatrocks fascicle 15 5/2/2022
Piedmont and Mountain Glades and Barrens fascicle 16 5/2/2022
Maritime Grasslands fascicle 17 5/2/2022
Maritime Upland Forests fascicle 18 6/23/2022
Dry Longleaf Pine Communities fascicle 19 5/2/2022
Coastal Plain Floodplains fascicle 20 5/2/2022
Piedmont and Mountain Floodplains fascicle 21 5/2/2022
Mountain Bogs and Fens fascicle 22 6/23/2022
Upland Seepages and Spray Cliffs fascicle 23 5/2/2022
Piedmont and Mountain Upland Pools and Depressions fascicle 24 5/2/2022
Coastal Plain Nonalluvial Wetland Forests fascicle 25 5/2/2022
Peatland Pocosins fascicle 26 6/23/2022
Streamhead Pocosins fascicle 27 6/23/2022
Wet Pine Savannas fascicle 28 5/2/2022
Coastal Plain Depression Communities fascicle 29 5/2/2022
Natural Lake Communities fascicle 30 6/23/2022
Maritime Wetlands fascicle 31 5/2/2022
Freshwater Tidal Wetlands fascicle 32 6/23/2022
Estuarine Communities fascicle 33 5/2/2022