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Rare animals
Find rare and non-game animals.
Rare plants
Learn about plants on the Natural Heritage Working List.
Rare lichens
Discover Wisconsin's lichens.
Natural communities
Explore Wisconsin's natural communities.
Other features
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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's natural communities, contact:
Ryan O'Connor
Natural Heritage Inventory Ecologist

Wisconsin's natural communities

Natural community, photo courtesy of Thomas A. Meyer

Forbes Springs State Natural Area. Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

A community is an assemblage of different plant and animal species, living together in a particular area, at a particular time, in a specific habitat. Communities may be named for their dominant plant species, for example, pine barrens, sedge meadows and oak savannas, a prominent environmental feature - Great Lakes Dune, Dry Cliff - or some combination of these factors. Communities range in size from less than an acre to thousands of acres. Communities are dynamic and always changing. Some change may be rapid while other change is too slow for many humans to notice during their brief lifetimes.

The Natural Heritage Inventory tracks examples of all types of Wisconsin's natural communities that are deemed significant because of their undisturbed condition, size, what occurs around them or for other reasons. These pages provide descriptions, general locations and other information for Wisconsin's natural communities. The communities are presented in aggregated groups.

Community Name Global
Community Group
Alder Thicket G4 S4 Wetland
Algific Talus Slope G2 S1 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Alvar G3 S1 Bare Soil and Bedrock
American Lotus-lily Marsh G3G4 S3 Wetland
Aspen-Birch Northern Forests
Bedrock Glade G2 S3 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Bedrock Shore G3G4 S2 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Black Spruce Swamp G5 S3? Northern Forests
Bog Relict G3 S3 Wetland
Boreal Forest G3? S2 Northern Forests
Boreal Rich Fen G4G5 S2 Wetland
Bracken Grassland G3 S2 Barrens and Savannas
Calcareous Fen G3 S3 Wetland
Cave GNR SU Bare Soil and Bedrock
Central Poor Fen G3G4 S3 Wetland
Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest G3 S3 Southern Forests
Clay Seepage Bluff GNR S2 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Coastal Plain Marsh G2? S1 Wetland
Coldwater streams Aquatic
Conifer Plantation Northern Forests
Coolwater streams Aquatic
Dry Cliff G4G5 S4 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Dry Prairie G3 S3 Prairies
Dry-mesic Prairie G3 S2 Prairies
Eastern Red-cedar Thicket GNR S4 Barrens and Savannas
Emergent Marsh G4 S4 Wetland
Ephemeral Pond GNRQ SU Aquatic
Floating-leaved Marsh G4G5 S4 Wetland
Floodplain Forest G3? S3 Southern Forests
Forested Seep GNR S2 Northern Forests
Glaciere Talus (Felsenmeer) G2G3 S2 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Great Lakes Alkaline Rockshore G3 S2 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Great Lakes Barrens G2 S1 Barrens and Savannas
Great Lakes Beach G3 S2 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Great Lakes Dune G3 S2 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Great Lakes Ridge and Swale G3 S2 Wetland
Great Lakes Shore Fen GNR S2 Wetland
Hemlock Relict G2Q S2 Southern Forests
Inland Beach G4G5 S3 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Inland lakes (group) Aquatic
Interdunal Wetland G2? S1 Wetland
Lacustrine Mud Flat GNR SU Bare Soil and Bedrock
Lake Michigan Aquatic
Lake Superior Aquatic
Lake--Deep, Hard, Drainage GNR S3 Aquatic
Lake--Deep, Hard, Seepage GNR S2 Aquatic
Lake--Deep, Soft, Drainage GNR S1 Aquatic
Lake--Large, Deep, Soft - Very Soft, Seepage Aquatic
Lake--Large, Shallow, Hard - Very Hard (marl), Drainage Aquatic
Lake--Shallow, Hard, Seepage GNR SU Aquatic
Lake--Shallow, Soft, Drainage GNR S3 Aquatic
Lake--Shallow, Soft, Seepage GNR S4 Aquatic
Lake--Hard Bog GNR S2 Aquatic
Lake--Meromictic GNR S1 Aquatic
Lake--Unique GNR SU Aquatic
Lake--Soft Bog GNR S4 Aquatic
Mesic Cedar Forest G3? S1 Northern Forests
Mesic Floodplain Terrace GNR S2 Northern Forests
Mesic Prairie G2 S1 Prairies
Moist Cliff GNR S4 Bare Soil and Bedrock
Moist Sandy Meadow GNR SU Wetland
Muskeg G4G5 S4 Wetland
Northern Dry Forest G3? S3 Northern Forests
Northern Dry-mesic Forest G4 S3 Northern Forests
Northern Hardwood Swamp G4 S3 Northern Forests
Northern Mesic Forest G4 S4 Northern Forests
Northern Sedge Meadow G4 S3 Wetland
Northern Tamarack Swamp G4 S3 Northern Forests
Northern Wet Forest G4 S4 Northern Forests
Northern Wet-mesic Forest G3? S3S4 Northern Forests
Oak Barrens G2? S2 Barrens and Savannas
Oak Opening G1 S1 Barrens and Savannas
Oak Woodland GNR S1? Barrens and Savannas
Oligotrophic Marsh GNR S3 Wetland
Open Bog G5 S4 Wetland
Patterned Peatland GNR S1 Wetland
Pine Barrens G2 S2 Barrens and Savannas
Pine Relict G4 S2 Southern Forests
Poor Fen G3G4 S3 Wetland
Riverine Impoundment - Reservoirs Aquatic
Riverine Lake - Pond GNR SU Aquatic
Riverine Mud Flat GNR SU Bare Soil and Bedrock
Sand Barrens GNR SU Barrens and Savannas
Sand Prairie GNR S2 Prairies
Shrub-carr G5 S4 Wetland
Southern Dry Forest G4 S3 Southern Forests
Southern Dry-mesic Forest G4 S3 Southern Forests
Southern Hardwood Swamp G4? S2 Southern Forests
Southern Mesic Forest G3? S3 Southern Forests
Southern Sedge Meadow G4? S3 Wetland
Southern Tamarack Swamp G3 S3 Southern Forests
Spring Pond, Lake--Spring Aquatic
Springs and Spring Runs, Hard GNR S4 Aquatic
Springs and Spring Runs, Soft GNR SU Aquatic
Submergent Marsh G5 S4 Wetland
Surrogate Grasslands Anthropogenic Habitats
Transportation-Utility Corridor Anthropogenic Habitats
Warmwater rivers Aquatic
Warmwater streams Aquatic
Wet Prairie G3 SU Prairies
Wet-mesic Prairie G2 S2 Prairies
White Pine-Red Maple Swamp G3G4 S2 Southern Forests
Wild Rice Marsh G3G4 S3 Wetland

Rank and status: To learn more about species rank and status, see the working list key. Mapped in NHI: (Natural Heritage Inventory): Y = Observations of these species are mapped into the NHI database.

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Last revised: Friday, February 15, 2019