ACE Basin Characterization Study: Species Gallery

The ACE Basin contains six distinct ecosystem habitat types that range from subtidal areas and vast wetlands to uplands. These habitats are characterized by more than 1500 different plant and animal species that interact with the physical environment to create the ACE Basin ecosystem.


Thirty plant community types were identified and classified by The Nature Conservancy during botanical surveys of 28 natural areas in the ACE Basin. The dominant vegetation types in the highest strata of the habitat define the plant communities. Three of the 30 plant communities (maritime dry grassland, maritime shrub thicket, and barrier island forest) are on the barrier and barrier-like islands. Estuarine wetlands contain four plant communities (salt marsh, salt flat, salt scrub thicket, brackish marsh), and 16 community types are in palustrine wetlands that are divided into two major categories: tidal and inland. There are 12 communities (depression meadow, bay forest, non-riverine swamp forest, pond pine woodland, pocosin, Carolina bay, maritime wet grassland, shrub swamp, depression pond complex, inland freshwater marsh, swamp tupelo pond, stream head pocosin) in inland wetlands that are defined as habitats having no hydrologic connection to major water bodies. Four communities (tidal marsh, bald cypress-tupelo swamp, bottomland hardwood, and spruce pine-mixed hardwood community) occur in tidal wetlands. The upland areas on the marsh islands and the mainland areas contain seven plant community types (loblolly pine-mixed hardwood forest, longleaf pine flatwoods, oak-hickory forest, South Atlantic inland maritime forest, Southern mixed hardwood forest, subxeric pine-scrub oak sandhill, and temperate shell midden woodland.

The physical environment of the habitat affects the types and distribution of plants occurring in each community type. In 1996, the zonation of maritime plant species is strongly influenced by the differential tolerance of the plants to sand burial and sand movement. On ACE Basin barrier islands where sand movement and salt spray deposition is high, clonal species such as sea oats dominate. As the intensity of sand movement and salt spray decreases, the numbers of inland species (e.g., camphorweed, fleabane, beach pea, and evening primrose) increase. In the most stable areas, it was noted that woody species, including live oak, cabbage palmetto, and wax myrtle characterize the plant communities.