Ecoregions of New York

Introductory text
Literature cited


(NOTE: maps and GIS files may differ. To make sure you are using the most current ecoregion data, download shapefiles of ecoregions)

GIS data (shapefiles, metadata and symbology):
Ecoregions of New York--poster front side

Map (available in PDF format):

Ecoregions denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type, quality, and quantity of environmental resources; they are designed to serve as a spatial framework for research, assessment, management, and monitoring of ecosystems and ecosystem components. By recognizing the spatial differences in the capacities and potentials of ecosystems, ecoregions stratify the environment by its probable response to disturbance (Bryce and others, 1999). These general purpose ecological regions are critical for structuring and implementing ecosystem management strategies across federal agencies, state agencies, and nongovernmental organizations that are responsible for different types of resources within the same geographical areas (Omernik and others, 2000).

The New York ecoregion map was compiled at a scale of 1:250,000. It revises and subdivides an earlier national ecoregion map that was originally compiled at a smaller scale (USEPA, 2009; Omernik, 1987). The approach used to compile this map is based on the premise that ecological regions can be identified through the analysis of the composition and spatial pattern of biotic and abiotic phenomena that affect or reflect differences in ecosystem quality and integrity (Wiken, 1986; Omernik, 1987, 1995). These phenomena include geology, physiography, vegetation, climate, soils, land use, wildlife, and hydrology. The relative importance of each characteristic varies from one ecological region to another regardless of its hierarchical level.

A Roman numeral hierarchical scheme distinguishes the different levels of ecological regions. Level I is the coarsest level, dividing North America into 15 ecological regions. Level II divides the continent into 50 regions (Commission for Environmental Cooperation Working Group, 1997). The continental United States contains 104 level III ecoregions and the conterminous United States has 84 ecoregions (United States Environmental Protection Agency [USEPA], 2009). Level IV is a further subdivision of level III ecoregions. Explanations of the methods used to define the USEPA's ecoregions may be found in Omernik (1995, 2004), and Omernik and others (2000).

New York contains great ecological diversity in its low coastal plains, large river valleys, rolling plateaus, glacial lakes, forested mountains, and alpine peaks. Nine level III ecoregions and 42 level IV ecoregions occur in New York and many continue into ecologically similar parts of adjacent states or provinces.

This poster is part of a collaborative project primarily between USEPA Region 2, USEPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (Corvallis, Oregon), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)-Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and The Nature Conservancy. The project is associated with an interagency effort to develop a common framework of ecological regions (McMahon and others, 2001). Reaching that objective requires recognition of the differences in conceptual approaches and mapping methodologies, including those developed by the USDA-Forest Service (Bailey and others, 1994; Cleland and others, 2007), the USEPA (Omernik, 1987, 1995; USEPA 2009), and the USDA-NRCS (USDA-Soil Conservation Service, 1981; USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2006). As each of these frameworks is further refined, their differences become less discernible. Collaborative ecoregion projects, such as this one in New York, are a step toward attaining consensus and consistency in ecoregion frameworks for the entire nation.

Literature Cited:

Bailey, R.G., Avers, P.E., King, T., and McNab, W.H., eds., 1994, Ecoregions and subregions of the United States (supplementary table of map unit descriptions compiled and edited by McNab, W.H. and Bailey, R.G.): Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service, map scale 1:7,500,000.

Bryce, S.A., Omernik, J.M., and Larsen, D.P., 1999, Ecoregions - a geographic framework to guide risk characterization and ecosystem management: Environmental Practice, v. 1, no. 3, p. 141-155.

Cleland, D.T., Freeouf, J.A., Keys, J.E., Jr., Nowacki, G.J., Carpenter, C., and McNab, W.H., 2007, Ecological subregions - sections and subsections of the conterminous United States: Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service, General Technical Report WO-76, map scale 1:3,500,000.

Commission for Environmental Cooperation Working Group, 1997, Ecological regions of North America - toward a common perspective: Montreal, Commission for Environmental Cooperation, 71 p.

McMahon, G., Gregonis, S.M., Waltman, S.W., Omernik, J.M., Thorson, T.D., Freeouf, J.A., Rorick, A.H., and Keys, J.E., 2001, Developing a spatial framework of common ecological regions for the conterminous United States: Environmental Management, v. 28, no. 3, p. 293-316.

Omernik, J.M., 1987, Ecoregions of the conterminous United States (map supplement): Annals of the Association of American Geographers, v. 77, no. 1, p. 118-125, map scale 1:7,500,000.

McMahon, G., Gregonis, S.M., Waltman, S.W., Omernik, J.M., Thorson, T.D., Freeouf, J.A., Rorick, A.H., and Keys, J.E., 2001, Developing a spatial framework of common ecological regions for the conterminous United States: Environmental Management, v. 28, no. 3, p. 293-316.

Omernik, J.M., 1995, Ecoregions - a framework for environmental management, in Davis, W.S. and Simon, T.P., eds., Biological assessment and criteria-tools for water resource planning and decision making: Boca Raton, Florida, Lewis Publishers, p. 49-62.

Omernik, J.M., 2004, Perspectives on the nature and definition of ecological regions: Environmental Management, v. 34, Supplement 1, p. s27-s38.

Omernik, J.M., Chapman, S.S., Lillie, R.A., and Dumke, R.T., 2000, Ecoregions of Wisconsin: Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, v. 88, p. 77-103.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2006, Land resource regions and major land resource areas of the United States, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Basin: Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, Agriculture Handbook 296, 669 p. + map.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Soil Conservation Service, 1981, Land resource regions and major land resource areas of the United States: Agriculture Handbook 296, 156 p.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2009, Level III ecoregions of the continental United States (revision of Omernik, 1987): Corvallis, Oregon, USEPA - National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Map M-1, various scales.

Wiken, E., 1986, Terrestrial ecozones of Canada: Ottawa, Environment Canada, Ecological Land Classification Series no. 19, 26 p.

PRINCIPAL AUTHORS: Sandra A. Bryce (Dynamac Corporation), Glenn E. Griffith (USGS), James M. Omernik (USGS), Greg Edinger (NYNHP), Steven Indrick (NRCS), Olga Vargas (NRCS), and Douglas Carlson (NYSDEC).

COLLABORATORS AND CONTRIBUTORS: D.J. Evans (NYNHP), Grace Smith (USEPA Region 2), Charles Ferree (The Nature Conservancy), Don Faber-Langendoen (NatureServe), Susan Gawler (NatureServe), Mark Anderson (The Nature Conservancy), Karen Murray (USGS), John Hutchinson (USGS), Jack Wittmann (USGS), Tom Loveland (USGS), Beth Timmons (Raytheon Corporation), and Colleen Burch Johnson (Raytheon Corporation).

REVIEWERS: Robert A. Daniels (New York State Museum), Aissa Feldmann (NYNHP), and Elizabeth Spencer (NYNHP).

CITING THIS POSTER: Bryce, S.A., Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Edinger, G., Indrick, S., Vargas, O., and Carlson, D., 2010, Ecoregions of New York (color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs): Reston, Virginia, U.S. Geological Survey, map scale 1:1,250,000.

This project was partially supported by funds from the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development, Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE) program.

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