The Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest is a type of montane coniferous forest that grows in the highest elevations in the southern Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. The southern spruce-fir forest is the highest and coldest forest ecosystem in the Appalachian range, thriving in elevations above 5,500 feet (1,700 m) where the climate is too harsh to support the broad-leaved hardwood forest that dominates the region's lower elevations. A relic of the last Ice Age, this forest type covers just over 100 square miles (260 km2), and is considered the second-most endangered ecosystem in the United States. Southern spruce-fir stands consist primarily of two needle-leaved evergreen species— the red spruce and the Fraser fir, nicknamed the "he-balsam" and "she-balsam," respectively. Regional entities sometimes refer to the southern spruce-fir forest as the "Canadian" or "boreal" forest due to its resemblance to the boreal forest of Canada. While southern spruce-fir forests are related to the boreal forests, and are home to a number of plant and animal species that are more common at northern latitudes, the southern spruce-fir is nevertheless a disjunct and unique ecosystem.
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