Habitat Types

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The habitat on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is the result of the nature of the organic and mineral soils and the depth to the seasonally high water table. The organic soils are combinations of muck and peat; the mineral soils are mixtures of sands, silts, and clays, usually with sandy topsoil. Human development activities have affected the refuge’s plant communities over time. Some of these activities occurred before the Service established the refuge, and some have occurred since.   Learn More...

  • Administrative Areas

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    A small portion of land has been developed for work areas, housing for interns and resident volunteers, storage and parking areas.

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  • Atlantic White Cedar Forest

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    The white cedar forest habitat type occupies 6,700 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and usually exists in a landscape mosaic interspersed with pond pine pocosin, cypress-gum, and nonalluvial hardwood communities.

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  • Bay Forest

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    The bay forest habitat type occupies 1,345 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres ad is located in scattered locations of organic soils throughout the northern half of the refuge. Loblolly bay, red bay, and sweetbay magnolia are dominant hardwood trees with an average height of 50 to 60 feet.

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  • Brackish Marsh

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    The brackish marsh habitat type occupies 11,889 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is found along the margins of sounds and estuaries in areas not subjected to regular flooding by salt water. Often referred to as "high marsh," this community is subjected to irregular flooding mostly from wind tides along the Outer Banks.

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  • Cropland

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    The cropland on the refuge occupies 3,468 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and was cleared as part of Prulean Farms that included 5,100 acres of cropland. This cropland provides a large, functional farming area that has considerable potential for waterfowl management through the creation of moist soil units in agricultural land and cultivated fields with the assistance of cooperative farmers.

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  • Cypress-Gum Forest

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    The cypress-gum forest occupies 7,488 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is found primarily in the western half of the refuge. Although much of this habitat is riparian, there is no readily apparent river levee system associated with these systems. Cypress-gum forests also occur as wet flats in nonalluvial settings.

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  • Freshwater Lakes, Ponds, and Pools

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    This “open water” habitat type occupies 2,306 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is found in association with the peninsular drainage areas. These areas are Spencer Creek, Callaghan Creek, Long Shoal River, Milltail Creek, Whipping Creek, and Swan Creek. Milltail Creek Lake, Whipping Creek Lake, and Swan Creek Lake are enlarged portions of the creek channels.

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  • Freshwater Marsh

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    Freshwater marsh occurs along fringes of rivers and streams, as patches in lakes, and as isolated pockets in disturbed areas. Panic grasses, arrow arum, blue flag, water lily, cattail, and sawgrass are predominant in this marsh type. 

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  • High Shrub Pocosin

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    The high shrub pocosin habitat type occupies 14,127 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is associated with deep to intermediate organic soils, primarily in a transitional zone between low shrub pocosin and the pond pine shrub pocosin. The shrub layer remains as the dominant feature of this community

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  • Loblolly Pine Forest

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    The loblolly pine forest habitat type occupies 3,001 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is found in on mineral soils in the northern half of the refuge. Dominant trees are usually loblolly pines.

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  • Low Shrub Pocosin

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    The low shrub pocosin habitat type occupies 4,194 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is associated with the deeper organic soils that occur primarily in the southeastern portion of the refuge. The organic soils can be as much as 20 feet deep.

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  • Managed Wetlands (Moist Soil Management Units)

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    Approximately 1,900 acres of the refuges 153,017 acres have been placed under a moist soil management regime. Moist soil management units were located in those areas where farming was most difficult because of woody debris, deep organic soils, wetness, or combinations of these factors. 

     

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  • Mixed Hardwood Swamp

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    The mixed hardwood swamp habitat type occupies 11,503 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres ad is located in scattered locations of organic soils throughout the northern half of the refuge. Red maple, red bay, and black gum are dominant hardwood trees with an average height of 50 to 60 feet.

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  • Mixed Pine/Hardwood Forest

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    The hardwood and mixed pine habitat type occurs on 21,377 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is found in scattered areas throughout the refuge. Red maple, red bay, and black gum are dominant hardwood trees with an average height of 50 to 60 feet. Pond pine and loblolly pine are the pine species present. Dominant shrubs are fetterbush, bitter gallberry, and sweet bay.

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  • Non-alluvial (Nonriverine) Hardwood Forest

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    The non-alluvial hardwood habitat type occurs on 1,800 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is located on poorly drained loamy or clayey mineral soils (mostly Hyde loam and Cape Fear loam) found primarily in the flats of the refuge between streams.

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  • Pond Pine Cane Pocosin

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    The pond pine cane pocosin habitat type occupies 4,260 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and is found primarily northeast of the Navy Bombing Range and south of Grouse and Cedar roads on essentially the same types and depths of organic soils as pond pine shrub pocosin is found.

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  • Pond Pine Shrub Pocosin

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    Pond pine shrub pocosin is the most prevalent habitat type on the refuge and occupies 50,012 of the refuges 153,017 acres. It occurs primarily in the eastern half of the refuge with large areas occurring in-the northeastern and southeastern sections on intermediate depth organic soils. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge exhibits typical pocosin vegetation, which is a dense growth of shrubs sometimes associated with trees.

     

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  • Shrub/Marsh Transition

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    The shrub/marsh transition habitat type occupies 6,960 acres of the refuge’s 153,017 acres and exists between brackish marsh and forested habitats.

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