Atlantic white cedar is a tree prized for its high resistance to decay and beautiful white wood. Muck farming in Orange County and logging in other areas have resulted in a loss of about 85% of inland Atlantic white cedar swamps in New York. Some remaining examples are along ridgetops far removed from the coastal plain where Atlantic white cedar is more common. These swamps have also been drained, flooded, dammed, converted to development, and impacted by pollution, road construction, and invasive species.
There are only a few occurrences statewide. A few documented occurrences have good viability and are protected on public land or private conservation land. This community is restricted to the Hudson Highlands and Eastern Allegheny Plateau of southeastern New York in Orange and Putnam counties. There are very few high quality examples left in the state. The current trend of this community is probably declining due to imminent threats related to the alteration to the natural hydrology by beaver and other development pressure. This community has declined substantially from historical numbers likely correlated to logging of cedar and subsequent agricultural development.
The number and acreage of inland Atlantic white cedar swamps in New York have declined in recent decades primarily due to beaver flooding. One site was lost to beaver flooding (converted to shallow emergent marsh/shrub swamp) in the 1990s.
The number and acreage of inland Atlantic white cedar swamps in New York have declined subtantially (about 75%) from historical numbers likely correlated with the initial logging of cedar and subsequent agricultural development.
Flooding by beaver, although a natural process, is the greatest threat to this community. One site was extirpated by beaver in the last ten years. Other threats include excessive logging and invasive non-native plants. In the past, many sites were logged and converted to muck farms. Inland Atlantic white cedar swamps are threatened by development (e.g., agriculture, residential, roads) and its associated run-off (e.g., septic, silt, nutrients), habitat alteration (e.g., excessive logging, pollution, trash dumping), and recreational overuse (e.g., ATVs, trails). Alteration to the natural hydrological regime is also a threat to this community (e.g., ditching, impoundments, and blocked culverts).
All sites should be monitored for beaver activity. Sites with Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) mortality greater than 50% should implement humane beaver control/removal strategies.
Where practical, establish and maintain a natural wetland buffer to reduce storm-water, pollution, and nutrient run-off, while simultaneously capturing sediments before they reach the wetland. Buffer width should take into account the erodibility of the surrounding soils, slope steepness, and current land use. Wetlands protected under Article 24 are known as New York State "regulated" wetlands. The regulated area includes the wetlands themselves, as well as a protective buffer or "adjacent area" extending 100 feet landward of the wetland boundary (NYS DEC 1995). If possible, minimize the number and size of impervious surfaces in the surrounding landscape. Avoid habitat alteration within the wetland and surrounding landscape. For example, roads and trails should be routed around wetlands, and ideally not pass through the buffer area. If the wetland must be crossed, then bridges and boardwalks are preferred over filling. Restore past impacts, such as removing obsolete impoundments and ditches in order to restore the natural hydrology. Prevent the spread of invasive exotic species into the wetland through appropriate direct management, and by minimizing potential dispersal corridors, such as roads.
When considering road construction and other development activities minimize actions that will change what water carries and how water travels to this community, both on the surface and underground. Water traveling over-the-ground as run-off usually carries an abundance of silt, clay, and other particulates during (and often after) a construction project. While still suspended in the water, these particulates make it difficult for aquatic animals to find food; after settling to the bottom of the wetland, these particulates bury small plants and animals and alter the natural functions of the community in many other ways. Thus, road construction and development activities near this community type should strive to minimize particulate-laden run-off into this community. Water traveling on the ground or seeping through the ground also carries dissolved minerals and chemicals. Road salt, for example, is becoming an increasing problem both to natural communities and as a contaminant in household wells. Fertilizers, detergents, and other chemicals that increase the nutrient levels in wetlands cause algae blooms and eventually an oxygen-depleted environment where few animals can live. Herbicides and pesticides often travel far from where they are applied and have lasting effects on the quality of the natural community. So, road construction and other development activities should strive to consider: 1. how water moves through the ground, 2. the types of dissolved substances these development activities may release, and 3. how to minimize the potential for these dissolved substances to reach this natural community.
Incorporate data from university researchers into New York Natural Heritage database. Immediately inventory any newly reported leads for this community.
Evaluate the reproductive success of Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) at each site. Research the regeneration of Atlantic white cedar post beaver flooding.
This community is currently restricted to the Hudson Highlands and Eastern Allegheny Plateau of southeastern New York in Orange and Putnam counties.
Inland Atlantic white cedar swamps occur from New Hamphire to New York inland from the coastal plain.
A conifer or mixed swamp that occurs on organic soils (usually peat) in poorly drained depressions and along pond edges in southeastern New York and northern New Jersey. The characteristic tree is Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides); the canopy cover of Chamaecyparis in these swamps is quite variable, ranging from nearly pure stands to as little as 30% of the canopy.
A basin swamp dominated or co-dominated by Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) located inland from the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Several examples are located along the top of a small mountain ridge.
Highbush blueberries are ripe in the late summer and their leaves turn bright colors in the fall. Water levels tend to be lower in the late summer making it a good time to visit these swamps on foot.
This New York natural community encompasses all or part of the concept of the following International Vegetation Classification (IVC) natural community associations. These are often described at finer resolution than New York's natural communities. The IVC is developed and maintained by NatureServe.
This New York natural community falls into the following ecological system(s). Ecological systems are often described at a coarser resolution than New York's natural communities and tend to represent clusters of associations found in similar environments. The ecological systems project is developed and maintained by NatureServe.
Chamaecyparis thyoides (Atlantic white cedar)
Nyssa sylvatica (black-gum, sour-gum)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)
Clethra alnifolia (coastal sweet-pepperbush)
Ilex verticillata (common winterberry)
Rhododendron viscosum (swamp azalea)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern)
This figure helps visualize the structure and "look" or "feel" of a typical Inland Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. Each bar represents the amount of "coverage" for all the species growing at that height. Because layers overlap (shrubs may grow under trees, for example), the shaded regions can add up to more than 100%.
Cowardin, L.M., V. Carter, F.C. Golet, and E.T. La Roe. 1979. Classification of wetlands and deepwater habitats of the United States. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, D.C. 131 pp.
Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero (editors). 2014. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke’s Ecological Communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY. http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/ecocomm2014.pdf
Edinger, Gregory J., D.J. Evans, Shane Gebauer, Timothy G. Howard, David M. Hunt, and Adele M. Olivero (editors). 2002. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's Ecological Communities of New York State. (Draft for review). New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 136 pp.
Eyre, F.H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, D.C.
Karlin, Eric F. 1997. The Drowned Lands' Last Stand: An inland Atlantic white cedar swamp in Orange County, New York. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society. 124(1):89-97.
Laderman, A.D. 1987. Atlantic white cedar wetlands. Symposium, Oct. 9-11, 1984, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA. Westview Press. Boulder, Co. 401 pp.
Laderman, A.D. 1989. The ecology of the Atlantic white cedar wetlands: A community profile. U.S. Fish Wildlife Serv. Biol. Rep. 85(7.21).
Lynn, Les M. 1984. The vegetation of Little Cedar Bog, Southeastern New York. Bull. Torrey Botanical Club 111: 90-95.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 1995. Freshwater Wetlands: Delineation Manual. July 1995. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources. Bureau of Habitat. Albany, NY.
Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.
This guide was authored by: Timothy G. Howard
Information for this guide was last updated on: March 6, 2017
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Inland Atlantic white cedar swamp. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/inland-atlantic-white-cedar-swamp/. Accessed July 17, 2019.