By: Nakesha Spellman
Did you know that North Carolina not only has the best University (GO HEELS!!!), but also has one of the most impressive vegetation landscapes in North America? Yeah, neither did most people, including me. North Carolina’s extreme range of vegetation is beyond breathtaking. “Vegetation” encompasses all types of flora from evergreen forests to grassy meadows and cropland. There have been many research studies that have examined the different vegetation patterns and the species that they contain, the major factors that affect the vegetation of North Carolina in general, and the effects it has on our environment in return.
With such a great resource to be studied and protected, we are fortunate to have many great professors at UNC that have become fascinated by the vegetation patterns of North Carolina. In 1988, Dr. Robert Peet of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill collaborated with three other individuals to help design the Carolina Vegetation Survey (CVS). The purpose of the CVS was to document the composition and status of natural vegetation of the Carolinas. Specifically, the researchers sought to determine attributes of individual taxa, inventory of communities and species, monitor natural and modified lands, and targets for restoration. They are currently collecting data for this project that will take years to complete. With the data that is being collected they are able to provide information and analysis to many organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Dr. Peet’s research experiment will be very beneficial to all mankind in hopes to provide knowledge about the vegetation pattern in the Carolina’s and the importance. If we don’t know what is out here, how can we know what we are losing?
The vision of CVS was to be able to provide the public with a reference to all vegetation types of the Carolinas. From the information collected, it was observed that the Carolina’s consisted of 3092 species. One of the species most frequently observed was the Acer rubrum, or Red Maple, which consisted of a total of 4011.
Dr. Peet and his colleague’s main role throughout this ongoing study is to examine biodiversity across landscapes and different vegetation patterns. In particular, Dr. Peet is very intrigued by the strong diversity in the vegetation of N.C. and the lack of knowledge of the factors that caused this captivating pattern. There were three different landforms that the researchers brought emphasis to. The three regions include: the coastal plain, the piedmont, and the mountains. The differences between landforms found in the three regions of North Carolina are very extreme.
Examining the abundance of biodiversity is very vital to the research study. By measuring the number of different species that are represented within a square foot in the vegetation regions, the researchers can gain important data on North Carolina’s vegetation characteristics. From the data that is being collected from the three regions, the researchers have established that the savannahs on the coastal plain in North Carolina has two areas of vegetation that are more abundant in species than any other place in North America. The savannahs on the coastal plain can have up to 50 species in one square foot. However, as one travels up the river valleys in the mountains, you can find more than 50 species in just 10 meters square of land. Dr. Peet and his research team believe that the level of the soil pH plays a vital role in the richness of species on land. As shown in the graph below, as the soil pH increase, the amount of species increase simultaneously.
Although Dr. Peet and his colleagues are continuing to provide us with valuable data on the richness of species of the Carolinas vegetation, there are still concerns on how the lack of care can diminish the vegetation pattern. What can affect the vegetation pattern? The answer is: land use and weather. The next question is: how does land use and weather affect vegetation and how can this be stopped?
You can learn more about Dr. Peet and his work at on his webpage, which includes a list of links to projects like the Carolina Vegetation Survey.