Upper Coastal Plain
The Upper Coastal Plain of Georgia is bounded on the north by the fall line and extends south to Florida and east to the upper terraces of the Lower Coastal Plain. Although the exact boundary between the Upper and Lower coastal plains is inexact, it generally falls along a line from Echols County, in southwest Georgia, to Screven County, in east central Georgia.
The longleaf forest played an important role in the cultural, biological, and economic history of the southeastern Coastal Plain. Native Americans were promoters of fire and used it to shape their environment for hunting. Because of the economic value of longleaf-pine saw timber (trees large enough to saw into lumber, as opposed to smaller trees suitable for pulpwood), vast tracts of mature pine forest were laid bare once railroad transport became available in the late 1800s. Georgia's production of naval stores (such products as tar, pitch, and turpentine) exceeded 70 percent of the world supply in the early 1900s. Today, forestry is a major industry of the state, although loblolly or slash pine plantations have replaced the longleaf forests. Recently, as irrigation from groundwater sources has increased, large acreages of the Coastal Plain sandy soils have been converted to agricultural uses.
Several major drainage systems of the Coastal Plain of Georgia—including those of the Chattahoochee, Flint, Oconee, Ocmulgee, and Altamaha rivers—originate in the Piedmont or mountains. Black-water rivers (so called because the water is tea-colored from naturally occurring organic compounds), such as the Ohoopee, the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Satilla rivers, originate in the Coastal Plain. Large floodplains and swamp systems are often associated with these river systems, which are critically important for restoring groundwater, preserving wildlife habitat, and reducing water pollution.
Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Fire Forest: Longleaf Pine–Wiregrass Ecosystem, Natural Georgia Series, vol. 8 (Decatur, Ga.: Georgia Wildlife Press, 2001).
Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Flint River, Natural Georgia Series, vol. 9 (Decatur, Ga.: Georgia Wildlife Press, 2002).
Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1999).
L. Katherine Kirkman, Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center
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