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By Steven L. Stephenson
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There are occasional “sightings”, but it is possible that among the animals observed are “exotic pets” that have been released into the wild. Just how rapidly the ecological status of an organism can change is illustrated by the tragic case of the passenger pigeon, which was probably the most numerous of any bird species in North America at the beginning of the nineteenth century but was extinct just a century later. It has been estimated that there were between three and four billion passenger pigeons when the species was most abundant, a total that would have accounted for about 25 percent of all the birds in North America at the time!
The end of the last glaciation marked the beginning of a period during which the majority of large mammals and one exceedingly common bird became extinct or vanished from the Central Appalachians. CHAPTER 03 PLANT LIFE OF THE CENTRAL APPALACHIANS THE VEGETATION OF THE CENTRAL APPALACHIANS as we know it today is the result of a number of factors that have been in play for a very long time. The region has a diverse assemblage of plant species (the flora), and the member species in this assemblage are found in different combinations across the landscape.
Similar conditions exist today in parts of the humid tropics. The largest and thus most conspicuous plants present in coal swamp forests were the tree-sized lycopsids, which regularly attained a height of 100 feet and a diameter of 3 feet at the base. Some individual trees may have reached a height of more than 150 feet, which few trees in today’s forests of the Central Appalachians are capable of reaching. Eastern white pine, which has the distinction of being the tallest tree species in all of eastern North America and is reputed to have grown as tall as 230 feet in precolonial forests before logging, is the only species capable of growing to an appreciably greater height.
A Natural History of the Central Appalachians by Steven L. Stephenson