If at first glance you see a tree with leaves and bark that looks like white oak (Quercus alba) in a swamp with red maple, then look closer to see if it is swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor). Swamp white oak leaves are hairy on the lower surface, whereas white oak lacks hair on the underside of the leaves.
There are very few occurrences of perched swamp white oak swamps statewide. Some perched swamp white oak swamps are too small to be protected by the New York State freshwater wetland regulations. A few documented occurrences have good viability and are protected on public land or private conservation land. This community has limited statewide distribution. The current trend of this community is probably stable for occurrences on public land, or declining slightly elsewhere due to moderate threats related to development pressure and alteration to the natural hydrology, and reduced protection regulations for isolated wetlands. This community has declined moderately from historical numbers likely correlated logging and development of the surrounding landscape.
The numbers and acreage of perched swamp white oak swamps in New York have probably remained stable in recent decades as a result of wetland protection regulations, but may decline in the future with reduced protection regulations for isolated wetlands.
The numbers and acreage of perched swamp white oak swamps in New York have probably declined moderately from historical numbers likely correlated with logging and development of the surrounding landscape.
Perched swamp white oak swamps are threatened by development and its associated run-off (e.g., residential), recreational overuse (e.g., hiking trails, ATVs), and habitat alteration in the adjacent landscape (e.g., excessive logging, pollution, nutrient loading). Alteration to the natural hydrology is also a threat to this community (e.g., flooding or draining). Although invasive species are currently not a threat to perched swamp white oak swamps, reedgrass (Phragmites australis ssp. australis) and purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) may become a problem in the future. In 2001, the federal Supreme Court ruled that the US Congress did not give authority to the US Army Corps of Engineers (US ACE) under section 404 of the Clean Water Act to regulate the filling of isolated wetlands. This decision led US EPA and US ACE officials to issue guidance in January 2003 that made it more difficult for regulators to protect isolated wetlands, such as perched swamp white oak swamps (Comer et al. 2005).
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 should not pass through the buffer area. If the wetland must be crossed, then bridges and boardwalks are preferred over filling. Restore swamps that have been affected by unnatural disturbance (e.g., remove 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.
Survey for occurrences statewide to advance documentation and classification of perched swamp white oak swamps.
Research is needed to fill information gaps about perched swamp white oak swamps, especially to advance our understanding of their classification, ecological processes, hydrology, floristic variation, and characteristic fauna. A statewide survey of perched swamp white oak swamps is desirable. Occurrences in New York should be critically compared to red maple-swamp white oak swamps, the clayplain forests in Vermont (Thompson and Sorenson 2000), and other more common forested mineral soil wetlands (e.g., red maple-hardwood swamp, silver maple-ash swamp, and floodplain forest).
Large high quality examples of perched swamp white oak swamp are located in the Finger Lakes region in Tompkins and Schuyler counties, but small examples are also known from Jefferson, Ontario, and Greene counties. It may occur elsewhere in the Appalachian Plateau and Taconic Highlands.
Perched swamp white oak swamps as described by NY Natural Heritage (Reschke 1990, Edinger et al. 2002) appear to be restricted to central New York.
The dominant tree is swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), which may form a nearly pure, open canopy stand in areas that are permanently saturated along with red maple (Acer rubrum), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), and American elm (Ulmus americana). The understory is fairly open. Characteristic shrubs include saplings of canopy trees, with scattered ericaceous shrubs including black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolium), and pink azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides). The groundcover may be sparse, with scattered patches of peat mosses (Sphagnum spp.) where the canopy cover is closed. In areas with an open canopy and wet soils, peat mosses may form extensive carpets. Characteristic herbs include marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), royal fern (O. regalis), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), Tuckerman's sedge (Carex tuckermanii), Gray's sedge (Carex grayi), sedge (Carex stipata), woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus), and mannagrass (Glyceria striata).
a hardwood to mixed swamp that occurs in shallow depressions located either on flat hillside steps or flat hilltops where the water table is locally perched above the surrounding groundwater level. The water level fluctuates seasonally; the swamp may be flooded in spring and nearly dry by late summer. The substrate ranges from poorly drained mineral soil to muck over bedrock.
Known examples of this community have been found at elevations between 290 feet and 777 feet.
During July, highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) in the understory of this community bears fruit. In autumn, the foliage of the hardwood canopy species and the understory shrubs turn bright colors.
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.
Alnus incana ssp. rugosa (speckled alder)
Fraxinus nigra (black ash)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus bicolor (swamp white oak)
Ulmus americana (American elm)
Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush)
Ostrya virginiana (hop hornbeam, ironwood)
Rhamnus cathartica (European buckthorn)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Rosa palustris (swamp rose)
Spiraea tomentosa var. tomentosa
Carex scoparia (pointed broom sedge)
Carex vulpinoidea (fox sedge)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Persicaria virginiana (jumpseed)
Scirpus cyperinus (common wool-grass)
This figure helps visualize the structure and "look" or "feel" of a typical Perched Swamp White Oak 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. https://www.nynhp.org/ecological-communities/
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.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. 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.
Thompson, E. H., and E. R. Sorenson. 2000. Wetland, woodland, wildland: A guide to the natural communities of Vermont. The Nature Conservancy and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. University Press of New England, Hanover, NH. 456 pp.
Tufts, C.E. 1976. A preliminary inventory of some unique natural areas in Tompkins County, New York. M.S. Thesis. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
This guide was authored by: Jennifer Garrett
Information for this guide was last updated on: April 29, 2019
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Perched swamp white oak swamp. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/perched-swamp-white-oak-swamp/. Accessed December 2, 2022.