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Thuja plicata / Athyrium filix-femina Forest
Translated Name: Western Red-cedar / Common Ladyfern Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL000473
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This small-patch, hygric (damp) to hydric (wet) community is associated with the inland penetration of a Pacific maritime climatic regime, occurring in the east Cascades and northeastern Washington, east into northern Idaho and northwestern Montana. This type ranges in elevation from 460 to 1430 m (1500-4700 feet). The primary environmental driver is abundant water throughout the growing season; standing water is often present early in the growing season, and water tables are high throughout the year. This is typically a streamside stringer, around seeps, where toeslopes intercept the water table, and some of the most extensive examples are associated with gentle slopes (<20 % inclination) with perched water tables. The stands are often sheltered in valley bottoms. Sites often have considerable microsite variation due to hummocking, and this can be reflected in the within-stand vegetation patterning. Soils are derived primarily from alluvium of various geologic origins. With textures ranging from loamy sands to silt loams and often having an appreciable gravel content, soils are very permeable. The tree canopy is highly variable in cover with dense old-growth Thuja-dominated stands approaching 100% canopy cover and other sites that perhaps have experienced wind throw having less than 50% cover. Thuja plicata dominates both the upper canopy and the reproductive layers; Tsuga heterophylla, Abies grandis and Picea engelmannii are consistent upper canopy components; only Tsuga has appreciable cover in the reproductive layers. In a modal expression of the type a nearly continuous layer of Athyrium filix-femina dominates the undergrowth, concealing a rich diversity of forbs. Some sites have appreciable cover of tall shrubs including Taxus brevifolia, Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata, and Acer glabrum. Incidental individuals or small patches of Oplopanax horridus may be found. The short and dwarf-shrub layers are relatively inconspicuous, a combined cover seldom exceeding 10%. Some consistently present hygric- to hydric-indicating forbs include Senecio triangularis, Trautvetteria caroliniensis, Streptopus amplexifolius, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Viola glabella, Aconitum columbianum, and Circaea alpina; some have considered the presence of the first four of these forbs to be indicative of the type when the cover of Athyrium is less than 1%.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: It has been the approach of Inland Northwest U.S. vegetation scientists to consider stands with a mix of Thuja plicata and Tsuga heterophylla (and Abies grandis) or either species alone and occurring on sites sufficiently wet to support at least 5% Oplopanax horridus or Athyrium filix-femina to be classed as Thuja plicata habitat types or plant associations. Daubenmire and Daubenmire (1968) argued, based on their investigations in northern Idaho and eastern Washington, that even where Tsuga constitutes the dominant tree species in a stand, it would not so remain. Ultimately the nurse-logs, from which these trees generated and grew, would decay, favoring Thuja reproduction in these wet environments (Tsuga not establishing well on mineral substrates). The Daubenmires also noted that, if Tsuga / Athyrium or Tsuga / Oplopanax segregates were recognized, they would include few stands and little area; they also demonstrated that there was no floristic differences in the undergrowth between Thuja- and Tsuga-dominated stands. Others have followed suit (Pfister et al. 1977, Lillybridge et al. 1995, Williams et al. 1995) and have included, even as did the Daubenmires, stands from wet environments and having Tsuga and no Thuja within the Thuja series (alliance).

The classification effort underway in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (IPP) has chosen to follow the USNVC and its predilection for recognizing actual cover rather than potential. The IPP classification distinguishes Tsuga types when the cover of this species is at least 25% of the upper canopy; the 25% figure is rather arbitrary and corresponds to no intrinsic break in the cover of either tree species. Another problematical distinction is that between the relative indicator values of Oplopanax and Athyrium; some consider these two species to be indicator equivalents (Lillybridge et al. 1995), whereas others (Hansen et al. 1995) are unequivocal in stating that Oplopanax is characteristic of wetter environments. Where the distribution of Athyrium and Oplopanax overlap, from the Clearwater River northward in Idaho, Thuja plicata / Athyrium filix-femina Forest (CEGL000473) is considerably more uncommon, these sites being occupied by Thuja plicata - Tsuga heterophylla / Oplopanax horridus Rocky Mountain Swamp Forest (CEGL000479) in which Athyrium is 100% constant and its cover frequently exceeds that of Oplopanax. One cannot invoke cold-air drainage and ponding on the latter type (noted by Hansen et al. 1995) as the distinguishing factor because Athyrium is abundantly represented on all Oplopanax sites. At least in northern Idaho Oplopanax sites occurred on coarser-textured soils with greater amounts of gravel (40-60%).


Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 1 - Forest & Woodland
Subclass 1.B - Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland
Formation 1.B.2 - Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland
Division 1.B.2.Nb - Rocky Mountain Forest & Woodland
Macrogroup Central Rocky Mountain Mesic Lower Montane Forest
Group Central Rocky Mountain Interior Western Red-cedar - Western Hemlock Forest
Alliance Central Rocky Mountain Western Hemlock - Western Red-cedar Warm-Mesic Forest & Woodland

This is the revised vegetation hierarchy. For more information see Classification Sources and usnvc.org.

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL000270 Abies grandis / Athyrium filix-femina Riparian Forest
CEGL000476 Thuja plicata / Gymnocarpium dryopteris Forest
CEGL000479 Thuja plicata - Tsuga heterophylla / Oplopanax horridus Rocky Mountain Swamp Forest
CEGL000491 Tsuga heterophylla / Athyrium filix-femina Forest
CEGL005931 Thuja plicata / Carex disperma Swamp Forest



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Related Subnational Community Units
These data are subject to substantial ongoing revision and may be out of date for some states.
In the U.S., contact the state Heritage Program for the most complete and up-to-date information at: http://www.natureserve.org/natureserve-network.
Information from programs in other jurisdictions will be posted when they are made available.
Subnation Concept Name Relationship to Standard Confidence Reference
Oregon Thuja plicata / Athyrium filix-femina Equivalent Certain Kagan et al. 2004
Washington Thuja plicata / Athyrium filix-femina Swamp Forest Equivalent Certain WNHP unpubl. data 2018


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata / Athyrium filix-femina Habitat Type
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Daubenmire, R. F., and J. B. Daubenmire. 1968. Forest vegetation of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Washington State University Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin No. 60. 104 pp.
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata / Athyrium filix-femina Habitat Type, Athyrium filix-femina Phase
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Hansen, P. L., R. D. Pfister, K. Boggs, B. J. Cook, J. Joy, and D. K. Hinckley. 1995. Classification and management of Montana's riparian and wetland sites. Miscellaneous Publication No. 54. Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station, School of Forestry, University of Montana. 646 pp. plus posters.
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata / Athyrium filix-femina Habitat Type, Athyrium filix-femina and Adiantum pedatum phases
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Cooper, S. V., K. E. Neiman, R. Steele, and D. W. Roberts. 1987. Forest habitat types of northern Idaho: A second approximation. General Technical Report INT-236.USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden, UT. 135 pp. [reprinted in 1991]
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata / Oplopanax horridus
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Lillybridge, T. R., B. L. Kovalchik, C. K. Williams, and B. G. Smith. 1995. Field guide for forested plant associations of the Wenatchee National Forest. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-359. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR. 335 pp.
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata / Oplopanax horridus Plant Association
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Williams, C. K., B. F. Kelly, B. G. Smith, and T. R. Lillybridge. 1995. Forest plant associations of the Colville National Forest. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-360. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR. 140 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES306.803 Northern Rocky Mountain Conifer Swamp


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G3G4 (01Feb1996)
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: ID, MT, OR, WA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This small-patch, hygric to hydric community occurs from the Selway River of Idaho northward to southern British Columbia, westward to the Cascade Range and eastward to lower elevation sites of northwestern Montana to just west of the Continental Divide; it is associated with the inland penetration of a Pacific maritime climatic regime.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Dry Domain
Division Name: Temperate Steppe Regime Mountains
Province Name: Middle Rocky Mountain Steppe - Coniferous Forest - Alpine Meadow Province
Province Code: M332 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Idaho Batholith Section
Section Code: M332A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Province Name: Northern Rocky Mountain Forest - Steppe - Coniferous Forest - Alpine Meadow Province
Province Code: M333 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Okanogan Highlands Section
Section Code: M333A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Flathead Valley Section
Section Code: M333B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Northern Rockies Section
Section Code: M333C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Bitterroot Mountains Section
Section Code: M333D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: The tree canopy is highly variable in cover with dense old-growth Thuja plicata-dominated stands approaching 100% canopy cover, and other sites that perhaps have experienced windthrow having less than 50% cover. Thuja plicata dominates both the upper canopy and the reproductive layers; Tsuga heterophylla, Abies grandis, and Picea engelmannii are consistent upper canopy components with only Tsuga having appreciable cover in the reproductive layers. Tree species that are major seral components on mesic upland sites, e.g., Larix occidentalis, Pinus contorta, and Pseudotsuga, are at most incidental on this wetter association. In a modal expression of the type, a nearly continuous layer of Athyrium filix-femina dominates the undergrowth, concealing a rich diversity of forbs. Some sites have appreciable cover of tall shrubs, including Taxus brevifolia, Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata, and Acer glabrum. Incidental individuals or small patches of Oplopanax horridus may be found [see Global Classification Comments]. The short- and dwarf-shrub layers are relatively inconspicuous, a combined cover seldom exceeding 10% due to the prevalence of Athyrium, with only Rubus parviflorus, Rosa gymnocarpa, Ribes lacustre, Cornus canadensis, and Linnaea borealis having greater than 50% constancy. Some consistently present hygric- to hydric-indicating forbs include Senecio triangularis, Trautvetteria caroliniensis, Streptopus amplexifolius, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Viola glabella, Aconitum columbianum, Mertensia paniculata, and Circaea alpina; some have considered the presence of the first four of these forbs to be indicative of the type (Cooper et al. 1987, Hansen et al. 1995) when the cover of Athyrium is meager (less than 1%). Other forbs of high constancy but lacking indicator value within this type include Clintonia uniflora, Maianthemum stellatum, Prosartes hookeri (= Disporum hookeri), Galium triflorum, Coptis occidentalis, Tiarella trifoliata, Trillium ovatum, and Viola orbiculata. Within Idaho from the St. Joe to the Selway rivers, the presence (>5% cover) of Adiantum pedatum is said to denote the warm (low-elevation) and nutrient-rich expression (covelike, collecting topographic positions) of the association; another fern, Polystichum munitum, also is most numerous and vigorous within this type and geographic restriction.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Thuja plicata G3 Needle-leaved tree Tree (canopy & subcanopy)  
 
 
Tsuga heterophylla G3 Needle-leaved tree Tree (canopy & subcanopy)    
 
 
Abies grandis G3 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Picea engelmannii G3 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Taxus brevifolia G3 Needle-leaved tree Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Acer glabrum G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Cornus canadensis G3 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Linnaea borealis G3 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Rosa gymnocarpa G3 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Ribes lacustre G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Rubus parviflorus G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Symphoricarpos albus G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Circaea alpina G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Clintonia uniflora G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Maianthemum stellatum G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Prosartes hookeri G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Senecio triangularis G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Streptopus amplexifolius G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Tiarella trifoliata G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Trautvetteria caroliniensis G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Adiantum pedatum G3 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Athyrium filix-femina G3 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)  
 
 
Gymnocarpium dryopteris G3 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This small-patch, hygric (damp) to hydric (wet) community occurs from just west of the Continental Divide in Montana, west into the east Cascades of Washington. It ranges in elevation from 460 to 1430 m (1500-4700 feet), but the majority of occurrences are below 1070 m (3500 feet), at least in Idaho, Montana and northeastern Washington. The primary environmental driver is abundant water throughout the growing season; standing water is often present early in the growing season, and water tables are high throughout the year. It typically occurs as a streamside stringer, around seeps, where toeslopes intercept the water table, and some of the most extensive examples are associated with gentle slopes (<20 % inclination) with perched water tables. The stands are often sheltered in valley bottoms. Sites often have considerable microsite variation due to hummocking, and this can be reflected in the within-stand vegetation patterning. Soils are derived primarily from alluvium of various geologic origins, including quartzite, sandstone, granite, metasediments, biotite, and shale. With textures ranging from loamy sands to silt loams and often having an appreciable gravel content, soils are very permeable.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Fire is seldom stand-replacing in these wet-site stands; thus, trees often attain large girth and height and great age.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): Western Ecology Group
Element Description Edition Date: 15Apr2004
Element Description Author(s): S.V. Cooper

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


References
  • Bourgeron, P. S., and L. D. Engelking, editors. 1994. A preliminary vegetation classification of the western United States. Unpublished report. The Nature Conservancy, Western Heritage Task Force, Boulder, CO. 175 pp. plus appendix.

  • Cooper, S. V., K. E. Neiman, R. Steele, and D. W. Roberts. 1987. Forest habitat types of northern Idaho: A second approximation. General Technical Report INT-236.USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden, UT. 135 pp. [reprinted in 1991]

  • Daubenmire, R. F., and J. B. Daubenmire. 1968. Forest vegetation of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Washington State University Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin No. 60. 104 pp.

  • Diaz, N. M., and T. K. Mellen. 1996. Riparian ecological types, Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Hood national forests, and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Technical Report R6-NR-TP-10-96. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR. 203 pp. plus appendices.

  • Hansen, P. L., R. D. Pfister, K. Boggs, B. J. Cook, J. Joy, and D. K. Hinckley. 1995. Classification and management of Montana's riparian and wetland sites. Miscellaneous Publication No. 54. Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station, School of Forestry, University of Montana. 646 pp. plus posters.

  • Hansen, P., K. Boggs, and R. Pfister. 1991. Classification and management of riparian and wetland sites in Montana. Unpublished draft version prepared for Montana Riparian Association, Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station, School of Forestry, University of Montana, Missoula. 478 pp.

  • Hop, K., M. Reid, J. Dieck, S. Lubinski, and S. Cooper. 2007. U.S. Geological Survey-National Park Service Vegetation Mapping Program: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. U.S. Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse, WI. 131 pp. plus Appendices A-L.

  • IDCDC [Idaho Conservation Data Center]. 2005. Wetland and riparian plant associations in Idaho. Idaho Conservation Data Center, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Boise. [http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/tech/CDC/ecology/wetland_riparian_assoc.cfm] (accessed 14 June 2005).

  • Kagan, J. S., J. A. Christy, M. P. Murray, and J. A. Titus. 2004. Classification of native vegetation of Oregon. January 2004. Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center, Portland. 52 pp.

  • Kovalchik, B. L. 1987. Riparian zone associations - Deschutes, Ochoco, Fremont, and Winema national forests. Technical Paper 279-87. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR. 171 pp.

  • Lillybridge, T. R., B. L. Kovalchik, C. K. Williams, and B. G. Smith. 1995. Field guide for forested plant associations of the Wenatchee National Forest. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-359. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR. 335 pp.

  • MTNHP [Montana Natural Heritage Program]. 2002b. List of ecological communities for Montana. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Montana State Library, Helena, MT.

  • Reid, M. S., S. V. Cooper, and G. Kittel. 2004. Vegetation classification of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Final report for USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, International Peace Park Mapping Project. NatureServe, Arlington VA.

  • WNHP [Washington Natural Heritage Program]. 2018. Unpublished data files. Washington Natural Heritage Program, Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA.

  • Western Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boulder, CO.

  • Williams, C. K., B. F. Kelly, B. G. Smith, and T. R. Lillybridge. 1995. Forest plant associations of the Colville National Forest. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-360. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR. 140 pp.

  • Williams, C. K., T. R. Lillybridge, and B. G. Smith. 1990b. Forested plant associations of the Colville National Forest. Report prepared for USDA Forest Service, Colville National Forest, Colville, WA. 133 pp.


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