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NATURAL HERITAGE

Community Ecology

Welcome to the home page of the ecology group at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's (DCR) Natural Heritage Program (VANHP). Here you will find information about the wealth of natural communities in the Commonwealth, the latest version of the Virginia state community classification, and PDF downloads of special presentations and documents.

Our group is part of the Inventory section at VANHP. We are vegetation ecologists, but work closely with zoologists, geologists, soil scientists, hydrologists, and other specialists to understand the complex interactions between plants, animals, and the physical environment. Our primary mission is to inventory the full range of natural communities in Virginia, develop a formal classification of ecological communities, and identify outstanding examples of all community types as priorities for protection. We hope s ongoing work will assist land owners and resource managers in understanding the landscape ecology of Virginia and conserving important ecosystems. We also work closely with our colleagues at NatureServe to ensure that the information we generate is incorporated into the National Vegetation Classification and other larger-scale projects.

In addition to conducting general inventories across Virginia, we have a long and successful track record of providing contract services to federal and local agencies and private organizations. Click here for more information about these projects and our services.

Photo of beach sunset and cordgrass
© Gary P. Fleming
Photo of old cedar tree
Gary P. Fleming
Photo of Blue Ridge in autumn colors
© Gary P. Fleming

THE NATURAL COMMUNITIES OF VIRGINIA, 2nd Approximation


The Second Approximation (Version 2.6) of The Natural Communities of Virginia: Classification of Ecological Community Groups is now on line. This is a refined, expanded, and fully illustrated update to the First Approximation that was released in 2001. Significant updates to the web version of the Second Approximation have recently been implemented, including hyperlinks to the National Vegetation Classification and to photographs of many plant and animal species mentioned in the text. Click here to begin perusing this greatly improved resource.


PDF AND OTHER DOWNLOADS


A hard-copy version of the classification will be available as a PDF download when the Third Approximation is implemented. Other PDF downloads will be made available periodically. Please check back often. These documents require the free Adobe reader.

  • Virginia Natural Community Classification listed in hierarchical format, with all ecological community groups, community types, USNVC crosswalks, global and state ranks. Current as of July, 2013.

  • Standard VANHP plot data collection field form and Instructions

  • Overview of the Physiography and Vegetation of Virginia
    This section of The Natural Communities of Virginia, Second Approximation is also available to view or download as a stand-alone PDF document.

  • Vegetation Ecology of the Potomac Gorge


    View and/or download a PDF version of a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation entitled Vegetation Ecology of the Potomac Gorge. There are two downloads, the actual powerpoint and a second text document with the narrative text which can be printed and used while viewing the PDF of the powerpoint. This presentation details the natural communities and unusual environmental gradients in the Potomac River valley west of Washington, D.C. The current version was presented at the October 14, 2006 annual meeting of the Maryland Native Plant Society in Shady Grove, Maryland. Previous versions were presented at the Oct 5, 2004 meeting of the Botanical Society of Washington; at the Virginia Native Plant Society's (VNPS) 2004 Biodiversity Workshop at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond; and at the April 8, 2004 meeting of the Potowmack Chapter of VNPS
  • .
    Vegetation Ecology of the Potomac Gorge: Powerpoint.pdf (34mb) - narrative script.pdf
  • Ecological Communities of the Northern Virginia Blue Ridge


    View and/or download a PDF version of a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation entitled Ecological Communities of the Northern Virginia Blue Ridge . There are two downloads, the actual powerpoint and a second text document with the narrative text which can be printed and used while viewing the PDF of the powerpoint. This informative show has stunning images of the communities and component flora of the Northern Blue Ridge province of Virginia, and was presented Oct 4, 2003 at a multi-state Native Plant Society conference entitled " The Blue Ridge Mountains and Potomac Valley in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia: Native Plants and the Geology of the Blue Ridge Province " in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

    Ecological Communities of the Northern Virginia Blue Ridge:

    Powerpoint.pdf (18mb) - narrative script.pdf


  • Methods for Ecological Community Inventory within Proposed Wind-Energy Project Areas
    This zip file contains a shapefile, spreadsheet and PDF required to be provided for permittees of wind farm projects to assist in assessing natural communities that may be present within a proposed wind energy project area. The PDF document outlines procedures to document natural communities within the disturbance zone of a proposed wind energy development. The shapefile is of Virginia's physiographic provinces, and the spreadsheet lists ecological community groups and their frequency per physiographic province.

CONTACT US

We welcome and appreciate comments or feedback on our work, as well as information or questions concerning Virginia's natural communities. Please direct inquiries to any member of the VANHP Ecology Staff:

Gary Fleming
Vegetation Ecologist
(804) 786-9122
Gary.Fleming@dcr.virginia.gov
Karen Patterson
Vegetation Ecologist
(804)786-5990
Karen.Patterson@dcr.virginia.gov
Kristin Taverna
Field Ecologist
(804) 692-0252
Kristin.Taverna@dcr.virginia.gov