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Communities are defined by the group of organisms that share an environment. The environment shared by the community can be as small as a rotten log or as large as a continent. Communities only contain biotic (living) things but they are heavily determined by the abiotic (nonliving) things around them. Topography, climate, soil types, water quality and many other factors can all determine what type of community develops in that environment.

The Mountain region, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, forms the northwestern corner of the state and is the southward continuation of the Appalachian Mountains. Underlain by metamorphic and igneous rocks, the topography is rugged with sharp relief. Elevation ranges from 1,400 to 3,500 feet above sea level. Soils tend to be high in organic content.  High altitudes, relative to the rest of the state, cause cooler temperatures and considerable rainfall. Average annual rainfall in the Mountains ranges between 60 and 80 inches. Because of the sharp elevation differences, rainwater runoff forms waterfalls and fast-flowing streams. The average temperature in January is between 38 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature in July is between 71 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

The high elevation of the Mountains causes cooler temperatures and high rainfalls. These support forest vegetation, such as white pine and hemlock, not found in the rest of South Carolina and characteristic of more northerly latitudes. The high rainfalls support lush vegetation. Cooler temperatures lead to a predominance of warm-blooded mammals over cold-blooded reptiles in the community. The sharp relief forms fast-moving, shallow and chilly streams. Fish such as trout and darters, adapted to this type of aquatic habitat, thrive in these streams where other fish cannot. 

The Piedmont region is found between the Mountains and the mid-line of the state near Columbia. Like the Mountains, it is also underlain by metamorphic and igneous rocks. Lower in elevation than the Blue Ridge, its topography is characterized by rolling hills and valleys with moderate slopes. Elevation ranges from 1400 feet to 300 feet and descends towards the coast. Soils consist primarily of red and yellow clays. The streams of the Mountains, as well as rainwater runoff on the impermeable clay of the Piedmont, join together to form large rivers in the Piedmont. Average annual rainfall averages around 50.45 inches. The average temperature in January is between 50 and 31 degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature in July is between 89 and 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

The mild climate of the Piedmont leads to a variety of plant life in this region. Because it is warmer and more humid than the Mountains, hardwood and pine trees predominate. The rolling, forested hills provide habitat for a variety of mammals, reptiles and birds. The large rivers provide habitat for fish adapted to fast water, such as darters, as well as those adapted to slow-moving water such as sunfish. The construction of dams in these regions to create man-made reservoirs has resulted in habitats in which only fish adapted to slow-moving water can survive.

From COASTeam Aquatic Workshops: Mountains (Grade 4); a joint effort between the

COASTeam Program at the College of Charleston and the South Carolina Aquarium – funded by the SC Sea Grant Consortium.


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