212 Laurentian Mixed Forest Province

North-central lake-swamp-morainic plains, New England lowlands, 147,300 mi2 (381,500 km2)

stand of beech and hemlock Land-surface form.--Most of this province has low relief, but rolling hills occur in many places. Lakes, poorly drained depressions, morainic hills, drumlins, eskers, outwash plains, and other glacial features are typical of the area, which was entirely covered by glaciers during parts of the Pleistocene. Elevations range from sea level to 2,400 ft (730 m).

This stand of beech and hemlock illustrates mixed deciduous- coniferous forest in the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania.

Climate.--Winters are moderately long and somewhat severe, but more than 120 days have temperatures above 50F (10C). Average annual temperatures range from 35 to 50F (2 to 10C). A short growing season imposes severe restrictions on agriculture; the frost-free season lasts from 100 to 140 days. Snow usually stays on the ground all winter. During winter, the province lies north of the main cyclonic belt; but during summer it lies within this belt, and the weather is changeable. Average annual precipitation is moderate, ranging from 24 to 45 in (610 to 1,150 mm); maximum precipitation comes in summer.

Vegetation.--This province lies between the boreal forest and the broadleaf deciduous forest zones and is therefore transitional. Part of it consists of mixed stands of a few coniferous species (mainly pine) and a few deciduous species (mainly yellow birch, sugar maple, and American beech); the rest is a macromosaic of pure deciduous forest in favorable habitats with good soils and pure coniferous forest in less favorable habitats with poor soils. Mixed stands have several species of conifer, mainly northern white pine in the Great Lakes region, with an admixture of eastern hemlock. Eastern redcedar is found in the southeast. Pine trees are often the pioneer woody species that flourish in burned-over areas or on abandoned arable land. Because they grow more rapidly than deciduous species where soils are poor, they quickly form a forest canopy; but where deciduous undergrowth is dense, they have trouble regenerating, and remain successful only where fire recurs. Fires started by lightning are common in this province, particularly where soils are sandy and there is a layer of dry litter in summer.

Soils.--The greatly varying soils include peat, muck, marl, clay, silt, sand, gravel, and boulders, in various combinations. Spodosols are dominant in New England and along the Great Lakes coast; Inceptisols and Alfisols dominate farther inland. The Alfisols are medium to high in bases and have gray to brown surface horizons and subsurface horizons of clay accumulation.

Fauna.--In winter, the shorttail weasel (ermine) and snowshoe hare turn white, as they do in polar provinces. The black bear, striped skunk, marmot, chipmunk, and two genera of jumping mice all pass the winter in hibernation. So do badger and the striped ground squirrel that live in the western parts of the province. Beaver and muskrat remain active all winter, working beneath the ice that covers the lakes and streams.

Ptarmigan also turn white in winter. Many other birds, especially insectivorous species, migrate south. Common summer resident birds include the white-throated sparrow, northern junco, and yellow-bellied sapsucker.