Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
ELEVATION: 580 to 1,725 feet (177 to 526 m).
AREA: 17,109 square miles (44,323 sq km).
CLIMATE: Most air masses cross the Great Lakes before entering this section, resulting in reduced continentality. Compared to areas of equivalent latitude in Section IX of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the section is warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Lake effect snow characterizes portions of the section within 20 to 30 miles of the Great Lakes shorelines. The Highplains (Subsection VII.2), the part of the section most distant from the Great Lakes and also the highest elevation above them, has the most continental climatic conditions within the section: more summer precipitation, the greatest summer and winter temperature extremes, the shortest growing season, and the greatest risk of spring freeze (Denton 1985).
Of annual precipitation, 26 to 28 percent occurs during November through February; 36 to 40 percent falls during the growing season (interpreted from Wendland et al. 1992).
BEDROCK GEOLOGY: This section, similar to Section VI to the south, is underlain by Paleozoic bedrock deposited in marine and near-shore environments, including sandstone, shale, limestone, and dolomite (Dorr and Eschman 1984, Milstein 1987). These Paleozoic bedrocks are deposited in an intercratonic basin, known as the Michigan basin, which was occupied by marine waters from the Silurian through Pennsylvanian Periods. Locally there are also Jurassic marine and near-shore deposits. The Jurassic and Pennsylvanian bedrocks are nearest the surface at the south end of the section, while Mississippian and Devonian bedrocks are nearest in the north.
Limestone bedrock is locally exposed along the Lake Huron and Lake Michigan shorelines. However, the sandy glacial deposits over most of the section are generally thick, up 600 to 1,100 feet thick near Cadillac and Grayling (Akers 1938).
LANDFORMS: The entire section was covered during late Wisconsin Glaciation; common glacial landforms include lake plain, outwash plain, end moraine, and ground moraine. Glacial landforms are the major factor upon which most of the subsection and sub-subsection boundaries here are defined. See subsections and sub-subsections for more details.
SOILS: Soils in the section range from sand to clay. Most soils are sands, loamy sands, and sandy loams, with sands by far the most prevalent (USDA Soil Conservation Service 1981, Albert 1990). Almost all the soils are forest soils. Soils are classified primarily as Spodosols, primarily Orthods, but also including Boralfs and Psamments (USDA Soil Conservation Service 1967).
PRESETTLEMENT VEGETATION: The common forest types included northern hardwoods forest, jack pine barrens, white pine-red pine forest, hardwood-conifer swamp, and conifer swamp. Northern hardwoods were common on the end and ground moraines. Jack pine, along with northern pin oak, dominated the flat, droughty outwash plains, which occupy large portions of the section. Forests of white pine and red pine were located in narrow outwash channels and on the moraines at the edges of the outwash plains, where fires were relatively common, but less intense than on the outwash plains themselves. Conifer and hardwood-conifer swamps covered large parts of the lake plains, but also occurred along drainages throughout the section. See subsections and sub-subsections.
NATURAL DISTURBANCE: Windthrow was common on both upland hardwood and conifer forests. Fire was important in the jack pine-, red pine-, and white pine-dominated forests, but it also occurred infrequently in hardwood forests.
PRESENT VEGETATION AND LAND USE: Most of the section remains forested. Intensive logging for white pine occurred in the latter half of the 19th century, causing major changes in forest composition. Eastern hemlock was also logged for the tannin industry, and northern hardwoods were harvested for many uses.
Following logging, farming was attempted on a broad range of soil types within the section. It failed on most of the sandy soils, but row crops are grown locally on some of the loamy soils. Some pasturing is also done, especially on the loamy moraines.
Orchards and vineyards are numerous along the Lake Michigan shoreline, where microclimatic conditions extend the growing season and reduce frost damage to fruit crops. Loamy soils are also preferred for the orchards and vineyards.
RARE PLANT COMMUNITIES: Northern grasslands associated with jack pine barrens are rare as a result of conversion to red pine or jack pine.
RARE PLANTS: See subsections and sub-subsections.
RARE ANIMALS: See subsections and sub-subsections.
NATURAL AREAS: See subsections and sub-subsections.
PUBLIC LAND MANAGERS: Huron-Manistee National Forests; Camp Grayling Military Reserve; Mackinaw and Pere Marquette State Forests; Kirtland Warbler Management Area.
CONSERVATION CONCERNS: Timber management is important throughout the section, which contains both state and national forests. These forest lands are important for diverse game and nongame plants and animals, including the federally threatened Kirtland's warbler. Oil and gas leases are common on State lands and continue to be environmental concerns, primarily because of the risk of ground-water contamination.
The Great Lakes shoreline is being rapidly developed for both recreation and residences. This development often conflicts with natural shoreline processes, such as erosion of shoreline bluffs and beach migration.
BOUNDARY JUSTIFICATIONS: See Section VI for discussion of the boundary between Section VI and Section VII. To the north, the boundary between Section VII and Section VIII is the boundary between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsula.