West Virginia is a state located in the Appalachian region in the Southern United States, considered to be a part of the Middle Atlantic States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania to the north, Maryland to the east and northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest. West Virginia is the 41st largest state by area, is ranked 38th in population; the capital and largest city is Charleston. West Virginia became a state following the Wheeling Conventions of 1861, after the American Civil War had begun. Delegates from some Unionist counties of northwestern Virginia decided to break away from Virginia, although they included many secessionist counties in the new state. West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, was a key border state during the war. West Virginia was the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state, the first to separate from any state since Maine separated from Massachusetts, was one of two states admitted to the Union during the American Civil War.
While a portion of its residents held slaves, most of the residents were yeomen farmers, the delegates provided for gradual abolition of slavery in the new state Constitution. The Census Bureau and the Association of American Geographers classify West Virginia as part of the Southern United States; however the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies West Virginia as a part of the Mid-Atlantic. The northern panhandle extends adjacent to Pennsylvania and Ohio, with the West Virginia cities of Wheeling and Weirton just across the border from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, while Bluefield is less than 70 miles from North Carolina. Huntington in the southwest is close to the states of Ohio and Kentucky, while Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry in the Eastern Panhandle region are considered part of the Washington metropolitan area, in between the states of Maryland and Virginia; the unique position of West Virginia means that it is included in several geographical regions, including the Mid-Atlantic, the Upland South, the Southeastern United States.
It is the only state, within the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The state is noted for its mountains and rolling hills, its significant logging and coal mining industries, its political and labor history, it is known for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including skiing, whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, hunting. Many ancient man-made earthen mounds from various prehistoric mound builder cultures survive in the areas of present-day Moundsville, South Charleston, Romney; the artifacts uncovered in these give evidence of village societies. They had a tribal trade system culture. In the 1670s during the Beaver Wars, the powerful Iroquois, five allied nations based in present-day New York and Pennsylvania, drove out other American Indian tribes from the region in order to reserve the upper Ohio Valley as a hunting ground. Siouan language tribes, such as the Moneton, had been recorded in the area. A century the area now identified as West Virginia was contested territory among Anglo-Americans as well, with the colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia claiming territorial rights under their colonial charters to this area before the American Revolutionary War.
Some speculative land companies, such as the Vandalia Company, the Ohio Company and Indiana Company, tried to legitimize their claims to land in parts of West Virginia and present day Kentucky, but failed. This rivalry resulted in some settlers petitioning the Continental Congress to create a new territory called Westsylvania. With the federal settlement of the Pennsylvania and Virginia border dispute, creating Kentucky County, Kentuckians "were satisfied, the inhabitants of a large part of West Virginia were grateful."The Crown considered the area of West Virginia to be part of the British Virginia Colony from 1607 to 1776. The United States considered this area to be the western part of the state of Virginia from 1776 to 1863, before the formation of West Virginia, its residents were discontented for years with their position in Virginia, as the government was dominated by the planter elite of the Tidewater and Piedmont areas. The legislature had electoral malapportionment, based on the counting of slaves toward regional populations, the western white residents were underrepresented in the state legislature.
More subsistence and yeoman farmers lived in the west and they were less supportive of slavery, although many counties were divided on their support. The residents of this area became more divided after the planter elite of eastern Virginia voted to secede from the Union during the Civil War. Residents of the western and northern counties set up a separate government under Francis Pierpont in 1861, which they called the Restored Government. Most voted to separate from Virginia, the new state was admitted to the Union in 1863. In 1864 a state constitutional convention drafted a constitution, ratified by the legislature without putting it to popular vote. West Virginia abolished slavery by a gradual process and temporarily disenfranchised men who had held Confederate office or fought for the Confederacy. West Virginia's history has been profoundly affected by its mountainous terrain and vast river valleys, rich natural resources; these were all factors driving its economy and the lifestyles of its residents, who tended to live in many small isolated communities in the mountain valleys.
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The subarctic is a region in the Northern Hemisphere south of the true Arctic and covering much of Alaska, Iceland, the north of Scandinavia, the Shetland Islands, the Cairngorms. Subarctic regions fall between 50°N and 70°N latitude, depending on local climates. Precipitation is low, vegetation is characteristic of the taiga. Monthly temperatures are at most three months of the year. Precipitation tends to be low due to the low moisture content of the cold air. Precipitation is greater in warmer months, with a summer maximum ranging from moderate in North America to extreme in the Russian Far East. Except in the wettest areas glaciers are not large because of the lack of winter precipitation. Soils of the subarctic are very acidic because of the influence of the vegetation both in the taiga and in peaty bogs, which tends to acidify the soil, as well as the extreme ease with which leaching of nutrients takes place in the most glaciated regions; the dominant soil orders are podsols and further north gelisols.
Subarctic regions are characterized by taiga forest vegetation, though where winters are mild, as in northern Norway, broadleaf forest may occur—though in some cases soils remain too saturated throughout the year to sustain any tree growth and the dominant vegetation is a peaty herbland dominated by grasses and sedges. There are only a few species of large terrestrial mammals in the subarctic regions, the most important being elk, bears and wolves. Agriculture is limited to animal husbandry, though in some areas barley can be grown. Canada and Siberia are rich in minerals, notably nickel, cobalt, lead and uranium, whilst the Grand Banks and Sea of Okhotsk are two of the richest fisheries in the world and provide support for many small towns. Except for those areas adjacent to warm ocean currents, there is always continuous permafrost due to the cold winters; this means that building in most subarctic regions is difficult and expensive: cities are few and small, whilst roads are few. Subarctic rail transport only exists in the Norilsk -- Dudinka line in northern Siberia.
An important consequence is that transportation tends to be restricted to "bush" planes, helicopters and, in summer, riverboats. Except for a few parts of Europe where the winters are mild due to prevailing wind and ocean current patterns, subarctic regions were not explored until the 18th and 19th centuries; the difficulty of transportation ensured that few settlements lasted long—the abandoned, once-thriving cities of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Siberia illustrate this. The Trans-Siberian Railway, which skirts the edge of the region, provided a major boost to Russian settlement in the subarctic, as did the intensive industrialization under Joseph Stalin that relied on the enormous mineral resources of the Central Siberian Plateau. Today, many towns in subarctic Russia are declining precipitously as mines close. In Canada, after the early minerals ran out, development stalled until hydroelectric development occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. Hydro-Quebec in particular has carried out many engineering works in regions of near-continuous permafrost, but these have never supported a significant population and have served densely populated southern Quebec.
Tourism in recent years has become a major source of revenue for most countries of the subarctic due to the beautiful glacial, landscapes so characteristic of the region. Most areas in the subarctic are among the most expensive places in the world to visit, due to both high costs of living and inaccessibility. Nonetheless, the great opportunities for outdoor recreation lure an ever-increasing number of travelers. At the same time, the older industries of the subarctic are being threatened by both environmental opposition and overfishing leading to depleted stocks of commercially important species. Indigenous peoples of the Subarctic Muskeg Nordicity Northern Canada Subarctic climate "Subarctic climate" in: Ritter, Michael E; the Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography. 2006
Snow refers to forms of ice crystals that precipitate from the atmosphere and undergo changes on the Earth's surface. It pertains to frozen crystalline water throughout its life cycle, starting when, under suitable conditions, the ice crystals form in the atmosphere, increase to millimeter size and accumulate on surfaces metamorphose in place, melt, slide or sublimate away. Snowstorms develop by feeding on sources of atmospheric moisture and cold air. Snowflakes nucleate around particles in the atmosphere by attracting supercooled water droplets, which freeze in hexagonal-shaped crystals. Snowflakes take on a variety of shapes, basic among these are platelets, needles and rime; as snow accumulates into a snowpack, it may blow into drifts. Over time, accumulated snow metamorphoses, by sintering and freeze-thaw. Where the climate is cold enough for year-to-year accumulation, a glacier may form. Otherwise, snow melts seasonally, causing runoff into streams and rivers and recharging groundwater. Major snow-prone areas include the polar regions, the upper half of the Northern Hemisphere and mountainous regions worldwide with sufficient moisture and cold temperatures.
In the Southern Hemisphere, snow is confined to mountainous areas, apart from Antarctica. Snow affects such human activities as transportation: creating the need for keeping roadways and windows clear. Snow affects ecosystems, as well, by providing an insulating layer during winter under which plants and animals are able to survive the cold. Snow develops in clouds; the physics of snow crystal development in clouds results from a complex set of variables that include moisture content and temperatures. The resulting shapes of the falling and fallen crystals can be classified into a number of basic shapes and combinations, thereof; some plate-like and stellar-shaped snowflakes can form under clear sky with a cold temperature inversion present. Snow clouds occur in the context of larger weather systems, the most important of, the low pressure area, which incorporate warm and cold fronts as part of their circulation. Two additional and locally productive sources of snow are lake-effect storms and elevation effects in mountains.
Mid-latitude cyclones are low pressure areas which are capable of producing anything from cloudiness and mild snow storms to heavy blizzards. During a hemisphere's fall and spring, the atmosphere over continents can be cold enough through the depth of the troposphere to cause snowfall. In the Northern Hemisphere, the northern side of the low pressure area produces the most snow. For the southern mid-latitudes, the side of a cyclone that produces the most snow is the southern side. A cold front, the leading edge of a cooler mass of air, can produce frontal snowsqualls—an intense frontal convective line, when temperature is near freezing at the surface; the strong convection that develops has enough moisture to produce whiteout conditions at places which line passes over as the wind causes intense blowing snow. This type of snowsquall lasts less than 30 minutes at any point along its path but the motion of the line can cover large distances. Frontal squalls may form a short distance ahead of the surface cold front or behind the cold front where there may be a deepening low pressure system or a series of trough lines which act similar to a traditional cold frontal passage.
In situations where squalls develop post-frontally it is not unusual to have two or three linear squall bands pass in rapid succession only separated by 25 miles with each passing the same point in 30 minutes apart. In cases where there is a large amount of vertical growth and mixing the squall may develop embedded cumulonimbus clouds resulting in lightning and thunder, dubbed thundersnow. A warm front can produce snow for a period, as warm, moist air overrides below-freezing air and creates precipitation at the boundary. Snow transitions to rain in the warm sector behind the front. Lake-effect snow is produced during cooler atmospheric conditions when a cold air mass moves across long expanses of warmer lake water, warming the lower layer of air which picks up water vapor from the lake, rises up through the colder air above, freezes and is deposited on the leeward shores; the same effect occurs over bodies of salt water, when it is termed ocean-effect or bay-effect snow. The effect is enhanced when the moving air mass is uplifted by the orographic influence of higher elevations on the downwind shores.
This uplifting can produce narrow but intense bands of precipitation, which deposit at a rate of many inches of snow each hour resulting in a large amount of total snowfall. The areas affected by lake-effect snow are called snowbelts; these include areas east of the Great Lakes, the west coasts of northern Japan, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, areas near the Great Salt Lake, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Baltic Sea, parts of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Orographic or relief snowfall is caused when masses of air pushed by wind are forced up the side of elevated land formations, such as large mountains; the lifting of air up the side of a mountain or range results in adiabatic cooling, condensation and precipitation. Moisture is removed by orographic lift, leaving drier, warmer air on the leeward side; the resulting enhanced productivity of snow fall and the decrease in temperature with elevation means that snow depth
Picea rubens known as red spruce, is a species of spruce native to eastern North America, ranging from eastern Quebec and Nova Scotia, west to the Adirondack Mountains and south through New England along the Appalachians to western North Carolina. This species is known as yellow spruce, West Virginia spruce, eastern spruce, he-balsam. Red spruce is a perennial, shade-tolerant, late successional coniferous tree that under optimal conditions grows to 18–40 m tall with a trunk diameter of about 60 cm, though exceptional specimens can reach 46 m tall and 100 cm in diameter, it has a narrow conical crown. The leaves are needle-like, yellow-green, 12–15 mm long, four-sided, with a sharp point, extend from all sides of the twig; the bark is gray-brown on the surface and red-brown on the inside and scaly. The wood is light, has narrow rings, has a slight red tinge; the cones are 3 -- 5 cm long, with a glossy red-brown color and stiff scales. The cones hang down from branches. Red spruce grows at a slow to moderate rate, lives for 250 to 450+ years, is shade-tolerant when young.
It is found in pure stands or forests mixed with eastern white pine, balsam fir, or black spruce. Along with Fraser fir, red spruce is one of two primary tree types in the southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest, a distinct ecosystem found only in the highest elevations of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, its habitat is moist but well-drained sandy loam at high altitudes. Red spruce can be damaged by windthrow and acid rain. Notable red spruce forests can be seen at Gaudineer Scenic Area, a virgin red spruce forest located in West Virginia, the Canaan Valley, Roaring Plains West Wilderness, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Spruce Mountain and Spruce Knob all in West Virginia and all sites of former extensive red spruce forest; some areas of this forest in Roaring Plains West Wilderness, Dolly Sods Wilderness as well as areas of Spruce Mountain are making a rather substantial recovery. It is related to black spruce, hybrids between the two are frequent where their ranges meet. Genetic data suggests that the red spruce peripatrically speciated from the black spruce during the Pleistocene due to glaciation.
Red spruce is an important wood used in making paper pulp. It is an excellent tonewood, is used in many higher-end acoustic guitars and violins, as well as musical soundboard; the sap can be used to make spruce gum. Leafy red spruce twigs are boiled as a part of making spruce beer, it can be made into spruce pudding. It can be used as construction lumber and is good for millwork and for crates. Red spruce is the provincial tree of Nova Scotia. Like most trees, red spruce is subject to insect parasitism, their insect enemy is the spruce budworm, although it is a bigger problem for white spruce and balsam fir. Other issues that have been damaging red spruce has been the increase in acid rain and current climate change; the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative seeks to unite diverse partners with the goal of restoring historic red spruce ecosystems across the high-elevation landscapes of central Appalachians. The partners that make up this diverse group are Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture, Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Mountain Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, U.
S. Forest Service Northern Research Station, U. S. Forest Service Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, West Virginia Division of Forestry, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia State Parks, West Virginia University. Prior to the late 1800s, 600,000 hectares of red spruce were in West Virginia. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a vast amount of logging began in the state and the number of red spruce dwindled to 12,000 hectares. Silviculture is being used to help restore the population of the lost red spruce. Significant efforts have been made to increase the growth of red spruce trees in western North Carolina. Most notably by Molly Tartt on behalf of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Tartt, a resident of Brevard North Carolina, embarked on a mission to find the lost red spruce Pisgah Forest, planted by the DAR as a memorial to the lives lost during the American Revolution; the forest, consisting of 50,000 trees was dedicated in 1940 and had until been forgotten until Tartt located and identified the forest
Tsuga mertensiana, known as mountain hemlock, is a species of hemlock native to the west coast of North America, with its northwestern limit on the Kenai Peninsula and its southeastern limit in northern Tulare County, California. Mertensiana refers to Karl Heinrich Mertens, a German botanist who collected the first specimens as a member of a Russian expedition in 1826-1829. Tsuga mertensiana is a large evergreen coniferous tree growing to 20 to 40 m tall, with exceptional specimens as tall as 59 m tall, they have a trunk diameter of up to 2 m. The bark is thin and square-cracked or furrowed, gray in color; the crown is a neat, conic shape in young trees with a tilted or drooping lead shoot, becoming cylindric in older trees. At all ages, it is distinguished by the pendulous branchlet tips; the shoots are orange–brown, with dense pubescence about 1 mm long. The leaves are needle-like, 7 to 25 mm long and 1 to 1.5 mm broad, blunt-tipped, only flattened in cross-section, pale glaucous blue-green above, with two broad bands of bluish-white stomata below with only a narrow green midrib between the bands.
The cones are small, cylindrical, 30 to 80 mm long and 8 to 10 mm broad when closed, opening to 12 to 35 mm broad, superficially somewhat like a small spruce cone. They have flexible scales 8 to 18 mm long; the immature cones are maturing red -- brown 5 to 7 months after pollination. The seeds are red -- brown, 2 to 3 mm long, with 7 to 12 mm - long pale pink -- brown wing; the geographic range of Tsuga mertensiana closely matches that of Tsuga heterophylla mostly less than 100 km from the Pacific Ocean apart from a similar inland population in the Rocky Mountains in southeast British Columbia, northern Idaho and western Montana. The inland populations most established after deglaciation by remarkable long-distance dispersal of more than 200 km from the coast populations, their ranges, differ in California, where western hemlock is restricted to the Coast Ranges and mountain hemlock is found in the Klamath Mountains and Sierra Nevada. Unlike western hemlock, mountain hemlock grows at high altitudes except in the far north, from sea level to 1,000 m in Alaska, 1,600 to 2,300 m in the Cascades in Oregon, 2,500 to 3,050 m in the Sierra Nevada.
There are two subspecies and a minor variety: Tsuga mertensiana subsp.. Mertensiana. Northern mountain hemlock. Central Oregon northwards. Cones smaller, 30 to 60 mm long, 12 to 25 mm broad when open, with 50 to 80 scales. Tsuga mertensiana subsp. Mertensiana var. mertensiana. Northern mountain hemlock. Leaves gray-green on both sides. Tsuga mertensiana subsp. Mertensiana var. jeffreyi Schneider. Jeffrey's mountain hemlock. Mixed with var. mertensiana. Leaves greener, less glaucous above, paler below. At one time it was thought to be a hybrid with western hemlock, but there is no verified evidence for this. Tsuga mertensiana subsp. Grandicona Farjon. California mountain hemlock. T. hookeriana Carrière, T. crassifolia Flous. Central Oregon southwards. Leaves strongly glaucous. Cones larger, 45 to 80 mm long, 20 to 35 mm broad when open, with 40 to 60 scales. Mountain hemlock is found on cold, snowy subalpine sites where it grows sometimes attaining more than 800 years in age. Arborescent individuals that have narrowly conical crowns until old age and shrubby krummholz on cold, windy sites near timberline add beauty to mountain landscapes.
Areas occupied by mountain hemlock have a cool to cold maritime climate that includes mild to cold winters, a short, warm-to-cool growing season and moderate to high precipitation. Best development of mountain hemlock is on loose, coarse-textured, well-drained soils with adequate moisture, in British Columbia, on thick and acidic organic matter and decayed wood. Adequate soil moisture appears to be important in California and Montana, where summer drought is most pronounced. Mountain hemlock will grow on most landforms, but individuals develop best in mixed stands of forest on sheltered slopes or in draws. From southern British Columbia south, the tree grows better on northerly exposures; the preference for moist, cool sites evidently becomes a necessity as the climate becomes more continental in western Montana and more mediterranean in the central Sierra Nevada at these extremes of its range. In these locations, mountain hemlock grows in isolated populations in north-facing glens and cirque basins where snow collects and may remain well into summer.
Mountain hemlock is adapted to sites with long-lasting snowpacks. In the spring, mountain hemlocks emerging through 2 to 4 m of snow were transpiring, whereas nearby whitebark pines did not transpire until the soil beneath them was free of snow. Mountain hemlock is well adapted to cope with heavy snow and ice loads, with tough branches and the drooping branchlets shedding snow readily. Mountain hemlock is other forms of competition, it is more tolerant than all its associates except Pacific silver fir, western hemlock, Alaska cedar. Mountain hemlock is considered a minor climax species on
The Pirin Mountain is a mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria, with Vihren at an altitude of 2,914 m being the highest peak. One hypothessis is the mountain was named after Perun, the highest god of the Slavic pantheon and the god of thunder and lightning. Another version is that the etymology of the range derives from the Thracian word Perinthos, meaning "Rocky Mountain"; the range extends about 80 km from the north-west to the south-east and is about 40 km wide, spanning a territory of 2,585 km2. To the north Pirin is separated from Bulgaria's highest mountain range, the Rila Mountain, by the Predel saddle, while to the south it reaches the Slavyanka Mountain. To the west is located the valley of the river Struma and to the east the valley of the river Mesta separates it from the Rhodope Mountains. Pirin is dotted with more than a hundred glacial lakes and is the home of Europe's southernmost glaciers and Banski Suhodol; the northern part of the range, the highest one, is protected by the Pirin National Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Pirin is noted for its rich flora and fauna, as well as for the presence of a number of relict species. Much of the area is forested, with some of the best preserved conifer woods in Bulgaria, holding important populations of the Balkan endemic species Macedonian pine, Bosnian pine and Bulgarian fir. Animals include many species of high conservation value, such as brown bear, gray wolf, European pine marten, wild boar, red deer, roe deer, etc; the combination of favourable natural conditions and varied historical heritage contribute makes Pirin an important tourist destination. The town of Bansko, situated on the north-eastern slopes of the mountain, has grown to be the primary ski and winter sports centre in the Balkans. A number of settlements at the foothills of Pirin have mineral spring and are spa resorts — Banya, Gotse Delchev, etc. Melnik at the south-western foothills of the mountain is Bulgaria's smallest town and is an architectural reserve. Within a few kilometres from the town are the Melnik Earth Pyramids and the Rozhen Monastery.
Pirin is part of the Rila -- Rhodope Massif. To the north the Predel Saddle and mountain pass at 1140 m altitude separates it from the Rila mountain range. To the east Pirin borders the Razlog Valley, the valley of the river Mesta and the Momina Klisura Gorge that separate it from the Rhodope Mountains. To the south the Paril Saddle divides it from the Slavyanka mountain range. To the west Pirin reaches the valley of the river Struma, including the Kresna Gorge and the Sandanski-Petrich Valley, that serve as a divide from the mountains Vlahina and Ograzhden further to the west; the main orographic ridge extends from the north-west to the south-east. Pirin spans an area of 2,585 km2 with an average height of 1,033 m; the maximum length between the Paril and Predel saddles is 80 km. Reaching an altitude of 2,914 m Pirin is the second highest mountain range in Bulgaria after Rila and the eighth highest in Europe after the Caucasus, the Alps, Sierra Nevada, the Pyrenees, Mount Etna, the aforementioned Rila, Mount Olympus.
Geologically and morphologically Pirin is divided into three parts: north and south, which differ in size and altitude. North Pirin is the largest of the mountain's downright part, it takes up 74% of the whole range's territory, being about 42 km long and ranging from Predel to the north to the Todorova Polyana Saddle to the south. It is the most visited part of the mountain, the only one to have an Alpine appearance, featuring many glacial lakes and shelters. North Pirin is itself divided into two zones by the Kabata Saddle and the valleys of the Banderitsa and Vlahinska rivers; the northern zone consists of the steep marble Vihren ridge with the three highest summits in the range: Vihren and Banski Suhodol. The marble ridge is narrow and steep, reaching a width of only 0.5 m at the ridge Koncheto. The southern zone is more massive and consists of granite ridges, including Pirin's fourth highest summit Polezhan, at 2851 m; the southern zone has marble ridges, such as the Sinanitsa ridge with its homonymous summit.
In total the northern section of Pirin includes two summits with an altitude over 2900 m, seven over 2800 m, 13 over 2700 m and 60 over 2500 m. Central Pirin extends between the Popovi Livadi Saddle, it constitutes the smallest and the shortest of the three subdivisions, covering only 7% of Pirin's total area. It is composed of crystalline schists and granite, as well as of marbled limestone in the south; because of the karstic relief there are no lakes. It is covered by deciduous forests; the highest peak is Orelyak. South Pirin stretches from the Popovi Livadi Saddle to the Paril Saddle and is the lowest and least rugged part; the highest peak is Ushite at 1,978 m, although Svesthnik had long been considered the highest summit. It constitutes 19% of the mountain's territory. Despite being characterised with flat ridges, its lateral slopes are steep. South Pirin is composed of granite with marbled limestone in the periphery, it is covered with forests. Like Central Pirin the springs are short and with low water discharge.
Geologically Pirin is a horst forming a massive anticline situated between the complex graben valleys of the Struma and the Mesta, formed by metamorphic rocks — gneiss and crystalline schists
Dwarf forest, elfin forest, or pygmy forest is a rare ecosystem featuring miniature trees, inhabited by small species of fauna such as rodents and lizards. They are located at high elevations, under conditions of sufficient air humidity but poor soil. There are two main dwarf forest ecosystem types, involving different species and environmental characteristics: coastal temperate and montane tropical regions. Temperate coastal dwarf forest is common for parts of Southern California. Montane tropical forests are found across tropical highlands of Central America, northern South America and Southeast Asia. There are other isolated examples of dwarf forests scattered across the world. Elfin forests of California are the primary example of coastal temperate dwarf forests, they are expansive, cover most of the mountains in the southern half of California, extending into Mexico and Arizona. Other expanses of elfin forest are found in the northern and central regions. In northern California, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is home to an elfin forest with Mendocino cypress, Sargent's cypress, within a section of the Zayante Sandhill Area.
On the Central Coast of California, on the southeastern shore of Morro Bay, Los Osos contains the El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area. The area is 90 acres, it derives the “elfin forest” title from the short California live oaks, which range in height from 4 – 20 feet, compared to the typical 30–80 feet. This region contains the federally endangered Morro shoulderband snail. At a higher altitude, on Cuesta Ridge, the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County manages the San Luis Obispo Elfin Forest of dwarf cypresses Factors such as soil moisture, solar radiation, rockiness of soil influence species composition along an elevational gradient, resulting in certain shrub species, such as Adenostoma fasciculatum and Arctostaphylos glauca, being present in elfin forest habitats. Fire occurs at low-moderate frequency with high severity. Many plants have adapted to this by having serotinous seeds that open to germinate only under high heat; because of this, they are the first to colonize a new area. Given that chaparral areas can be waterlogged in the winter, arid and desert-like in the summer, native plants in these dry elfin forests have adapted accordingly, are much shorter and compact than related plants elsewhere.
Diminutive plants found in Californian elfin forests include Portulacaceae such as Mount Hood pussypaws and Alkali heath, species of Aeonium and bird's-foot trefoil. Trees and shrubs, such as chamise, ceanothus, sumac and scrub-oak grow more than 20 ft tall in these communities. Californian elfin forest fauna includes many species of deer mouse, harvest mouse, California vole, California pocket mouse, kangaroo rat, several species of spiny lizards, along with other small vertebrates. Invertebrates include the common scorpion, burrowing scorpion, various species of spider and tick; the Californian climate exhibits wet winters and dry summers. Variation in these patterns can cause devastating damage to numerous plant communities. Plants found in elfin forests have adapted to grow during winter months, become dormant during the summer due to drought stress. Plant communities deal with low, seasonal rainfall by relying on fog interception and taking in moisture from the air. Formation of coastal elfin forests in northern California and Oregon, began with a series of marine terraces.
A combination of uplift and changes in ocean level formed a system of terraces, resulting in an “ecological staircase,” with each terrace 100,000 years older than the one below it and supporting a distinct association of soils, microbes and animals. A dune being pushed farther away from the coast by fluctuating sea levels solidified and slid under the one before it, raising the terraces. Pioneer plant communities took over the young terrace; the succession of plant communities that repeated on each terrace formed a specific podzol known as the Blacklock series, which offers an inhospitable environment for species and stunts further growth on the terrace. Part of this soil profile includes an underlying iron hardpan; each terrace is level and many are footed by paleo-dunes. Drainage is poor at best on these stairs and plants sit in a bath of their own tannins and acids for much of the wet season. Plant communities on this terrace have reacted to limited root mobility and acidic soil by evolving stunted forms.
Remnants of ecological staircases doubtless exist, however most have been destroyed for development or logging. Analyses of pygmy forest soils show low levels of macro- and micro-nutrients, high levels of exchangeable aluminum, which limits the ability of plants to grow. Low pH conditions support formation of an iron hardpan, preventing the trees from setting deep roots and preventing internal drainage of soil water; as a result, the pine trees in the area are more than three or four feet high, in a sort of natural bonsai effect. Many of the tree trunks, though only an inch thick, contain 80 or more growth rings. Only yards away, but with younger soils, the same species of tree grows many dozens of feet high. Examples of high-terrace podzol pygmy forests include: Mendocino Pygmy F