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Ecoregion Description

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Species Richness

# of Endemic Species


155: Apalachicola

Major Habitat Type:

temperate floodplain rivers and wetlands


Text modified from Abell et al. 2000. Freshwater Ecoregions of North America: A Conservation Assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA.


United States


The ecoregion stretches from northern Georgia along the western border with Alabama to the Gulf Coast through the central part of the Florida panhandle. With the exception of the Mobile Bay drainage, the Apalachicola is the only northeastern Gulf drainage that extends above the Fall Line.

Drainages flowing into:

The drainages of this ecoregion flow to the Gulf of Mexico.

Main rivers or other water bodies:

The Apalachicola ecoregion encompasses the drainages of the Apalachicola and Econfina rivers. Tributaries include the Flint and Chattahoochee, which meet to form the Apalachicola.


The Apalachicola’s two main tributaries, the Chattahoochee and Flint, arise in the Blue Ridge physiographic province of northern Georgia, and the Piedmont Plateau near Atlanta, respectively (Livingston 1992; Carr 1994). Elevations here reach above 1000 m. The Chattahoochee then flows through the Red Hills of the Piedmont province before entering the upper Coastal Plain where it meets the Flint to form the Apalachicola.


The ecoregion experiences a humid subtropical climate.

Freshwater habitats:

Although the Apalachicola lies entirely within the coastal plain, the variety of habitats found in its two tributary rivers provide the foundation for a diverse freshwater fauna (Livingston 1992). Because reaches of the Apalachicola flow through shaded ravines with cool spring inputs, immigrant species that have found their way south via the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers find habitat that resembles that of more northerly regions (Livingston 1992; Carr 1994).

Terrestrial Habitats:

Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests in the northern part of the ecoregion are demarcated from the conifer forests in the south by the Fall Line of the Atlantic Piedmont. The conifer forests are fire-maintained systems dominated by long-leaf pine (Pinus palustris) (Ricketts et al. 1999).

Fish Fauna:

While this ecoregion contains roughly half as many fish as the Mobile Bay [153], it supports more species than adjacent lowland ecoregions do (Swift et al. 1986). Euryhaline marine, diadromous, and secondary freshwater fish are found in the Apalachicola in addition to the more dominant primary freshwater species. Anadromous fish once abundant in the river are the Alabama shad (Alosa alabamae), striped bass (Morone saxatilis), and sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus); construction of the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam has truncated their migration routes (Livingston 1992).

Description of endemic fishes:

Endemic fish species in this ecoregion are the broadstripe shiner (Pteronotropis euryzonus), bluestripe shiner (Cyprinella callitaenia),  greater jumprock (Scartomyzon lachneri), and shoal bass (Micropterus cataractae) (Swift et al. 1986; Page & Burr 1991).

Other noteworthy aquatic biotic elements:

This ecoregion is distinguished more for its unionid mussel fauna than for its fish, with nearly half of all mussel species endemic to the ecoregion. The Apalachicola not only contains the largest number of freshwater gastropods and bivalves of all of the drainages from the Escambia west to the Suwannee River (encompassing ecoregions [154], [155], and [156]), but studies have found that it is also the center of endemism for these mollusks (Livingston 1992).

 Due largely to the diversity of physical habitats, the upper Apalachicola basin is also rich in herpetofauna, with a greater density of reptiles and amphibians than any other region in North America north of Mexico (Livingston 1992).

Justification for delineation:

Ecoregion boundaries are taken from Abell et al. (2000) and are based on subregions defined by Maxwell et al. (1995).


Abell, R., Olson, D., et al. (2000). "Freshwater ecoregions of North America" Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Carr, M. H. (Ed.) (1994). "A naturalist in Florida: A celebration of Eden" New Haven, Connecticut, USA: Yale University Press.

Livingston, R. J. (1992)"Medium-sized rivers of the Gulf Coastal Plain" In Hackney, C.T.;Adams, S.M.;Martin, W.H. (Ed.). Biodiversity of the southeastern United States: aquatic communities. (pp. 351-385) New York, New York, USA.: John Wiley and Sons, Inc..

Maxwell, J. R., Edwards, C. J., et al. (1995) "A hierarchical framework of aquatic ecological units in North America (Nearctic Zone)". St. Paul, MN. North Central Forest Experiment Station, USDA Forest Service.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr (1991). "A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico" New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Co..

Ricketts, Taylor H. Dinerstein Eric Olson David M. Loucks Colby J. (1999). "Terrestrial ecoregions of North America: A conservation assessment" Washington, D.C.: World Wildlife Fund.

Swift, C. C., Gilbert, C. R., et al. (1986)"Zoogeography of the freshwater fishes of the southeastern United States: Savannah River to Lake Pontchartrain" In Hocutt, C.H.;Wiley, E.O. (Ed.). The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. (pp. 213-265) New York, New York, USA: Wiley.

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