By Steven L. Stephenson
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Additional resources for A Natural History of the Central Appalachians
On clear, calm nights, especially during the spring and fall, the layer of air next to the ground on a ridgetop becomes colder than the air above it. Under the influence of gravity, this colder air moves (“flows”) down slope and accumulates on the floor of the adjacent valley. This phenomenon (called “cold air drainage”) can lower temperatures on the valley floor by several degrees, so much so that the valley floor can be cooler than the ridgetops of surrounding mountains. In this situation the valley floor is characterized by appreciably lower temperature than would be accounted for by either topographic position or elevation alone.
These rocks are extensively exposed on the floor of the Shenandoah Valley in central and northern Virginia. The various periods of the Paleozoic from the Cambrian until the early Devonian are represented by sedimentary rock layers that can be found at numerous places throughout the Ridge and Valley and Appalachian Plateau. When these layers can be observed directly, as when they appear as natural rock outcrops or have been exposed by road cuts, it can be quite evident that they contain fossils, usually those of organisms that lived in the shallow tropical sea mentioned above.
Blue jays and other birds are known to carry acorns a considerable distance, sometimes a mile or more. More importantly, tree species such as black cherry and serviceberry produce small, fleshy fruits that contain small seeds, which can pass through the digestive tract of birds unharmed. When the fruits are fed upon by birds, it is quite possible for the seeds to be transported over several miles. It is not surprising that the species of trees consistently associated with treefall gaps and similar situations in which the forest canopy has been disturbed are those with a high dispersal potential.
A Natural History of the Central Appalachians by Steven L. Stephenson