West Florida Gulf




Text modified from Abell et al. 2000. Freshwater Ecoregions of North America: A Conservation Assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA. Additional text provided by Jennifer Hales.


United States

Major Habitat Type

Temperate coastal rivers

Drainages flowing into

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

Main rivers to other water bodies

The ecoregion is defined by the lowland drainages of the Perdido, Escambia, Blackwater, Yellow, and Choctawhatchee rivers.  



This ecoregion drains a relatively small area along the Gulf Coast, covering southern Alabama and the western portion of the Florida Panhandle.


The ecoregion lies within the southeastern Coastal Plain, and consists of sedimentary deposits of low relief (Swift et al. 1986). Elevations range from sea level to almost 200 m in the north.

Freshwater habitats

The Perdido River, which forms the northwest boundary of Florida, flows through forests in its upper reaches and marshes and swamps below. The Blackwater, Yellow, and Shoal rivers provide relatively cool freshwater habitat, and the Choctawhatchee flows through extensive floodplain forests. The Escambia is the largest of this ecoregion’s rivers and has its headwaters in Alabama (Livingston 1992).

Terrestrial habitats

The northern part of the ecoregion is dominated by oak-hickory-pine forests (Küchler 1964). These are separated from the conifer forests in the south by vegetation and elevation (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).

Description of endemic fishes

Several of the endemic fish are relatively new to science, suggesting the need for additional taxonomic research in this region. The endemics include the coastal darter (Etheostoma colorosum), Choctawhatchee darter (E. davisoni), southern logperch (Percina austroperca), Florida sand darter (Etheostoma bifascia), and Okaloosa darter (E. okaloosae).

Justification for delineation

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


  • Livingston, R. J. (1992). "Medium-sized rivers of the Gulf Coastal Plain" 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..
  • Moler, P. E. (1992) Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. III. Amphibians and reptiles University Press of Florida : Gainesville, Florida, USA
  • Ricketts, T. H.,E. Dinerstein,D.M Olson;C.J. Loucks (1999). "Terrestrial ecoregions of North America: A conservation assessment" Washington, D.C.: World Wildlife Fund.
  • Abell, R.,Olson, D.,Dinerstein, E.,Hurley, P. T.,Diggs, J. T.,Eichbaum, W.,Walters, S.,Wettengel, W.,Allnutt, T.,Loucks, C. J.;Hedao, P. (2000). "Freshwater ecoregions of North America" Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
  • Maxwell, J. R., Edwards, C. J., Jensen, M. E., 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.
  • Küchler, A. W. (1964). "Potential natural vegetation of the conterminous United States. (Map and Illustrated Manual)." New York, NY: American Geographical Society.