The preserve protects several dolomite barrens, a globally rare natural community. These areas are typically small, natural openings in otherwise forested landscapes, characterized by thin calcareous soils, dry conditions, and exposed bedrock including limestone or dolomite. At the Cleveland Barrens Natural Area Preserve, four such barrens are found on steep, southwest-facing slopes; these barrens are dominated by various warm-season grasses, such as indiangrass, big bluestem, and little bluestem. Thirteen rare plant species and three rare insect species make use of the habitat found in the preserve.
^"Limestone and Dolomite Barrens". The Natural Communities of Virginia, Classification of Ecological Community Groups. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. February 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.