We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

A Natural History of the Central Appalachians

written by Steven L. Stephenson

Publication Year: 2013

Central Appalachia is the system of linear ridges, intervening valleys, and deeply dissected plateaus that make up the rugged terrain found in western and southwestern Virginia, eastern and central West Virginia, western Maryland, and a portion of south central and southwestern Pennsylvania. Through its concise and accessible approach, A Natural History of the Central Appalachians thoroughly examines the biology and ecology of the plants, animals, and other organisms of this region of eastern North America.
With over 120 images, this text provides an overview of the landscape of this region, including the major changes that have taken place over the past 300 million years; describes the different types of forests and other plant communities currently present in Central Appalachia; and examines living systems ranging from microorganisms and fungi to birds and mammals. Through a consideration of the history of humans in the region, beginning with the arrival of the first Native Americans, A Natural History of the Central Appalachians also discusses the past, present, and future influences of human activity upon this geographic area.

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 2-8


pdf iconDownload PDF (994.6 KB)
pp. viii-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (29.3 KB)
pp. xi-12

This book was written to provide a fairly comprehensive yet relatively non-technical overview of the Central Appalachians, with primary emphasis on the forests of the region. The target audience includes students, teachers, and interested laypersons. The initial idea of doing such a book first came about during a discussion with Dr. Earl L. Core very early in my career. ...

read more

Chapter 01: Introduction to the Central Appalachians

pdf iconDownload PDF (734.9 KB)
pp. 13-28

The region defined herein as the Central Appalachians consists of a system of linear ridges with intervening valleys, deeply dissected plateaus, and other landforms that produce a generally rugged terrain in western and southwestern Virginia, eastern and central West Virginia, western Maryland, and a portion of south central and southwestern Pennsylvania (fig. 1). ...

read more

Chapter 02: History of the Flora and Fauna

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.0 MB)
pp. 29-46

The earliest evidence of life on the earth is represented by fossils of bacterium-like organisms that have been dated to about 3.5 billion years ago. These fossils occurred in rocks derived from sediments deposited in the shallow water of an early ocean, and for at least the first 2 billion years the history of life took place in the water. ...

read more

Chapter 03: Plant Life of the Central Appalachians

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 47-62

The vegetation of the Central Appalachians as we know it today is the result of a number of factors that have been in play for a very long time. The region has a diverse assemblage of plant species (the flora), and the member species in this assemblage are found in different combinations across the landscape. ...

read more

Chapter 04: Forests of the Central Appalachians

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 63-80

As discussed in Chapter 3, the forest vegetation that occurs over a landscape is best considered as a continuum, with the particular assemblage of tree species present at a given locality reflecting local environmental conditions. Where different localities have comparable environmental conditions and historical natural disturbances (e.g., windstorms or floods), ...

read more

Chapter 05: Non-Forested Areas of the Central Appalachians

pdf iconDownload PDF (742.4 KB)
pp. 81-96

Although forests once extended over most of the Central Appalachians, there have always been some non-forested areas. Some of these are of particular interest because of the unique geological, topographic, climatic, or anthropogenic factors ultimately responsible for their existence or their ability to support unusual assemblages of plants (and animals). ...

read more

Chapter 06: Plants of Special Interest

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.6 MB)
pp. 97-112

There is little question that vascular plants dominate the landscape of the Central Appalachians. As discussed in some detail in preceding chapters, assemblages of species change both over time and from place to place. Some localities support highly diverse assemblages, but in other localities few species are present. ...

read more

Chapter 07: Lower Plants

pdf iconDownload PDF (837.0 KB)
pp. 113-128

The term lower plant has no precise meaning, and in the context of this chapter it simply refers to all the more primitive plants and plantlike organisms found in the forests of the Central Appalachians. This is an exceedingly diverse assemblage that includes vascular plants (ferns and lycophytes), bryophytes, lichens, and algae. ...

read more

Chapter 08: Mushrooms and Other Fungi

pdf iconDownload PDF (860.8 KB)
pp. 129-146

When one thinks of a forest, the first things that come to mind are the trees and other plants that make it up. We recognize different types of forests (e.g., oak forests or pine forests) on the basis of the dominant trees present. After trees, what one would ordinarily associate with a forest is the animal life, particularly some of the more conspicuous birds and mammals. ...

read more

Chapter 09: Non-Insect Arthropods and Other Invertebrates

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 147-164

More than 95 percent of all described species of animals are invertebrates (i.e., lacking an internal skeletal system), and members of this large and diverse assemblage are well represented in the Central Appalachians. Some of these, including the larger insects (e.g., butterflies), are conspicuous, but most invertebrates are smaller and often live in environments where they are likely to be overlooked. ...

read more

Chapter 10: Insects of the Central Appalachians

pdf iconDownload PDF (462.8 KB)
pp. 165-178

The major distinguishing feature of an insect is that it has six legs. Most adult insects are capable of flight, and this—coupled with their sheer abundance—makes them more conspicuous than any other group of invertebrates found in the Central Appalachians. Although most insects are terrestrial, numerous aquatic forms also exist, ...

read more

Chapter 11: Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fishes

pdf iconDownload PDF (957.5 KB)
pp. 179-196

It has been estimated that the vertebrates—those animals that possess an internal skeletal system, including a backbone—make up less than 5 percent of all animals. But vertebrates tend to be larger, usually much larger, than invertebrates and are much better known. Representatives of all five major groups of vertebrates—fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals—are found in the Central Appalachians. ...

read more

Chapter 12: Birds and Mammals

pdf iconDownload PDF (496.6 KB)
pp. 197-210

Unlike the three groups of vertebrates discussed in chapter 11 (reptiles, amphibians, and fish), birds and mammals are warm-blooded. Features that serve to distinguish birds from mammals are a skin covered by feathers (for both insulation and flight), forelimbs modified as wings (usually for flight, but not in the same manner as the wings of bats), and hollow bones (thus providing a lighter weight for flying). ...

read more

Chapter 13: Humans in the Central Appalachians

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 211-228

It is not known when the first Native Americans arrived in the region recognized as the Central Appalachians, but the event undoubtedly took place more than twelve thousand years ago. Radiocarbon dates obtained for plant material associated with human artifacts collected from the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, an archaeological site in southwestern Pennsylvania, suggest that it was occupied at least sixteen thousand years ago. ...

read more

Chapter 14: Past, Present, and Future

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.6 MB)
pp. 229-246

The Central Appalachian region, with great natural beauty, large expanses of forests, and low human population, has developed into one of the premier recreational areas in all of North America. Three national forests—the Monongahela in West Virginia, the Jefferson in Virginia (with a very small part in Kentucky), and the George Washington in Virginia (and a small portion of West Virginia)—are found in the region. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 247-248

Glossary of Common and Scientific Names

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.2 KB)
pp. 248-253

Further Reading

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.5 KB)
pp. 254-259

Figure Credits

pdf iconDownload PDF (26.5 KB)
pp. 260-261


pdf iconDownload PDF (57.4 KB)
pp. 261-271

read more

Author's Bio

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.3 KB)
pp. 272-274

Steven L. Stephenson is a Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Arkansas, where he teaches such courses as Plant Biology, Comparative Botany, Plant Ecology, and Forest Ecology. He is the author or coauthor of more than 250 papers and seven books, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781935978718
E-ISBN-10: 1935978713
Print-ISBN-13: 9781933202686
Print-ISBN-10: 1933202688

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 129
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1st ed.