North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Dry coniferous woodlands (Loblolly/ slash pine forest)

This habitat type occurs on extremely dry Piedmont sites, including ridgetops and steep slopes.  These sites contain rocky, shallow, often extremely acidic soil.  Canopy tree species may include table mountain and pitch pine (uncommon), Virginia pine, shortleaf pine, chestnut oak, scarlet oak, post oak, blackjack oak, and some hickories.  Hemlocks (especially Carolina hemlock) occur on some rocky areas and exposed bluff slopes in the western Piedmont. Learn more...

Early Succession

Early succession and scrub-shrub habitats are characterized by low woody vegetation and herbaceous plants and are often found associated with agricultural or forestry activities in the Piedmont.  This habitat includes grasslands, shrublands, clearcuts and regenerating forests, large canopy gaps, hayfields, pasture, row crops and field borders.  This habitat category can also include open savannas, or any habitat where dense understory vegetation is maintained through periodic disturbance. These habitats are created and maintained by disturbances like disking, clearcutting, or burning.  To a lesser extent, extreme weather events or tree pests (insects and diseases) can also create early succession habitats.  Historically, large herbivores and Native American land uses likely contributed to the creation and maintenance of these habitats. Learn more...

Floodplain Forest

Floodplain forests in the Piedmont generally do not contain significant recognizable elevation differences easily seen in the larger coastal floodplain systems.  In these smaller floodplains, the relief and size of the fluvial landforms (levees, sloughs and ridges), which differentiate the communities in large floodplains, become smaller and harder to find (Schafale and Weakley 1990).  In larger and more expansive examples of these floodplains, the forest canopy contains a good mixture of bottomland and mesophytic (moderately moisture tolerant) plant species, such as green ash, red maple, swamp chestnut oak, willow oak, and American elm.  In areas where floodplain landforms are apparent, levees may contain sycamore, river birch and box elder.  Floodplain areas that have been farmed or clearcut recently are usually dominated by tulip poplar or sweetgum. Learn more...

Lakes and Reservoirs

There are no natural lakes in the Piedmont.  However, there are numerous reservoirs, mill ponds, farm ponds and other man-made water bodies that provide habitat for a variety of fully- and semi-aquatic species.  Many large reservoirs were created for flood control or hydropower production.  They have become important areas for many bird species (nesting, roosting, and feeding sites) and provide habitat for fish, reptiles, amphibians, and aquatic mammals.  Smaller water bodies such as farm ponds and mill ponds provide habitat for a variety of amphibian and reptile species, especially turtles. Learn more...

Mesic Forest

In the Piedmont, mesic forests occur on moist portions of upland habitat, steep north-facing slopes, lower slopes, along ravines, high sections of outer floodplains and stream bottoms.  The most common subtypes in the Piedmont are Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest and Basic Mesic Forest (Schafale and Weakley 1990).  These habitats have well-developed understory and shrub layers and are characterized by canopy species such as American beech, tulip poplar and red oak, and in the western Piedmont, eastern hemlock.  Learn more...

Oak Forest

This habitat includes all mature Piedmont forests found upslope, or on drier sites, than Mesic Forest and downslope, or on wetter sites, than Dry Coniferous Woodland.  Immature forests are discussed in the Early Succession habitat section.  Within this moisture gradient, there is great diversity in plant community composition, ranging from pine-dominated to hardwood-dominated forests, depending primarily upon soils and management history.  A variety of natural communities recognized by the NC Natural Heritage program have an oak-hickory or mixed hardwood/pine component and occur in the Piedmont on both xeric and mesic sites.  The communities with the largest or best examples include Dry Oak-Hickory Forest, Dry-Mesic Oak-Hickory Forest, Basic Oak-Hickory Forest, Xeric Hardpan Forest and Piedmont Monadnock Forest (Schafale and Weakley 1990).
Learn more...

Riverine Aquatic Communities

Piedmont riverine habitats are important for a number of wildlife species that utilize aquatic habitats during part or all of their life cycle.  Terrestrial species that are dependent upon riverine aquatic communities are often also intimately tied to floodplain forest habitats.  Examples for birds that utilize rivers and streams include the Louisiana waterthrush, some waterfowl, wading birds, and some shorebirds.  Piedmont riverine habitats are important for a number of reptiles and amphibians including certain turtles, frogs, and salamanders that utilize aquatic habitats during part or all of their life cycle.  These habitats are also important for a variety of mammals that are semi-aquatic and/or that have an aquatic food base (e.g., muskrats, beavers, river otters, and certain bats like the eastern pipistrelle). Learn more...

Small Wetland Communities

Piedmont communities in this category include upland pool, upland depression swamp forest, and low elevation seep (Schafale and Weakley 1990). Upland pools are a rare habitat type in the Piedmont, dominated by wetland shrubs and herbs and are small depressions where water is ponded by an impermeable substrate.  Tree species along the edge of these habitats may include black gum, water oak, red maple, and sweet gum.  Shrubs may include buttonbush, blueberries, and swamp doghobble.  Royal ferns, sedges, sphagnum, and other mosses are found in the herb layer. 
Learn more...

N.C. River Basins

Aquatic Habitats


While inland freshwater aquatic systems represent a small percentage of the landscape, they are living systems that are influenced by numerous conditions such as landscape position, slope, width, depth, temperature, velocity, substrate or bed material, chemistry, and land cover. The various geology, landscape, and climate attributes found in North Carolina contribute to the wide diversity of aquatic habitats found across the state. The following table provides an overview of the type of natural aquatic communities found in North Carolina and the ecoregions where they occur.  


Aquatic Natural Communities1



Chapter 4 in the 2015 NC Wildlife Action Plan provides more information about these communities and ecoregions.




North Carolina River Basins
View Map

Click here for more information about N.C. River Basins

(redirects page to N.C. Environmental Education website)



The NC Department of Environmental Quality has designated 17 major river basins in North Carolina. Of these, 11 river basins have headwaters that begin in North Carolina but only 4 are contained entirely within the state  - these are the Cape Fear, Neuse, Tar-Pamlico, and White Oak river basins. The other river basins have headwaters that drain across adjacent states (Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia) before crossing North Carolina.

 Table River Basins by Ecoregion



N.C. Ecoregions Map