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Cape Cod is located within the Atlantic coastal pine barrens eco-region, a division determined by the similarity of the type and quality of the habitats and environmental resources present. The sandy coastal environment supports many different habitat types, or natural communities, which thrive on the nutrient-poor, acidic, and droughty soils. The pine barrens form the matrix that connects the diverse and specialized habitats which support plant and animal species not found elsewhere in Massachusetts. The Atlantic coastal pine barrens stretches from Kingston and Carver throughout Cape Cod and to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Natural Communities

Cape Cod is home to many specialized habitats and natural communities. Pitch pine/scrub oak woodlands, coastal dunes, maritime forests, Atlantic White cedar swamps, coastal plain ponds, sandplain grasslands, salt marshes, and coastal salt ponds are some of the specialized habitats that are found here. Many of these resources are threatened by development pressure, and many are not recognized as significant. Vernal pools, while not unique to Cape Cod, are often overlooked for the ecological role they play in our environment. Because many of these natural communities support unusual assemblages of soils, hydrology, and plants, many support rare or threatened species not found elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

The following natural communities are found on Cape Cod – the links will take you to factsheets developed by the state’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.


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