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Thuja plicata - Tsuga heterophylla / Oplopanax horridus Rocky Mountain Swamp Forest
Translated Name: Western Red-cedar - Western Hemlock / Devil's-club Rocky Mountain Swamp Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL000479
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This is a linear, small-patch association located within moist and mild climatic regimes in the northern Rocky Mountains of Washington, Idaho and Montana. This is a saturated to seasonally flooded wetland forest community usually found in a mosaic with other wetland or riparian Thuja plicata or Tsuga heterophylla types. Ranging in elevation from 455 to 1311 m (1500-4300 feet), it is found on seep toeslopes and along riparian zones on wet streambank terraces. Landforms include lower benches, valleys, lower stream terraces, wet bottoms, and toeslope seepage areas. High water tables and cold-air drainage are characteristic of these sites. The water table is typically shallow, and soils are loams and sandy loams. Either Thuja plicata or Tsuga heterophylla dominate a nearly closed-canopy forest often with Picea engelmannii (or Picea x albertiana) or Abies grandis trees. In Montana Tsuga heterophylla is present in all occurrences, but Thuja plicata is often codominant. Abies lasiocarpa, Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, and Pseudotsuga menziesii are also occasionally present in the overstory, but typically with very low cover. Tsuga heterophylla, Thuja plicata, Pseudotsuga menziesii, and Abies lasiocarpa saplings are common in the subcanopy, with the latter being most common in higher elevation occurrences in Montana. The understory has a patchy to dense layer of tall Oplopanax horridus shrubs, which is a rhizomatous species; at least 5% cover of Oplopanax is diagnostic for this type. Other species that infrequently occur in the shrub layer include Acer glabrum or Taxus brevifolia. The shrub layers are typically low in diversity. Herbaceous diversity is typically high, primarily composed of forbs. Athyrium filix-femina and Gymnocarpium dryopteris can be prominent members of the luxuriant herbaceous layer along with Tiarella trifoliata var. unifoliata, Clintonia uniflora, Actaea rubra, Asarum caudatum, Streptopus amplexifolius, Maianthemum stellatum, Viola orbiculata, or Osmorhiza berteroi.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: This association is defined as a PNV vegetation type. If it were renamed as a dominance type the species would include Thuja plicata and Tsuga heterophylla. This association (CEGL000479) is distinguished from Tsuga heterophylla - (Pseudotsuga menziesii) / Oplopanax horridus / Polystichum munitum Forest (CEGL000497) which has "maritime" character species such as Alnus rubra, Polystichum munitum, Achlys triphylla, Acer circinatum, and Vaccinium parvifolium of the Cascades and west and is more upland/riparian in habitat. Whereas, the association discussed here has the presence/relative abundance of inland species, such as more Abies grandis (in U.S.), Picea engelmannii, Acer glabrum, and Osmorhiza berteroi in Canadian Rocky Mountains. This association tends to be more a wetland/riparian community. This type also needs to be compared to the several other associations already in the USNVC occurring in the Pacific Northwest coastal ranges that have both Tsuga heterophylla and Oplopanax horridus in their names.

As defined here, this association allows for either Tsuga or Thuja to be the dominant in the canopy, alone or in combination with the other; it is recognized however, that most documented stands have both species at least present. This type was previously described by Pfister et al. (1977) and Cooper et al. (1987) as part of the Thuja plicata / Oplopanax horridum Habitat Type. In those treatments, Thuja plicata was given greater weight than Tsuga heterophylla, regardless of the abundance of Tsuga.

The difference between Tsuga and Thuja dominance of the upper canopy in this association is quite probably related to historical accident, past disturbance events and subsequent successional patterns. Despite the very long fire-return intervals (200-500 years for stand-replacing fire), the longevity of both species, especially that of Thuja, argues for considering the dual designation (Thuja plicata - Tsuga heterophylla) as appropriate; if one or the other species responds to disturbance by attaining canopy dominance, it is unlikely the non-dominant species will become dominant in the average fire-free interval. Others have recognized that quite probably a dominance continuum exists between these two species by naming at least 8 plant associations with the dual designation (Tsuga heterophylla - Thuja plicata /_). Arguing against this approach is the indisputable observation that either of these species can be strongly dominant, with the other occurring only in the reproductive layers, if at all. In northern Idaho, where these species are sympatric over an extensive range, there are drainages where one or the other species is present, and its complement is not (Daubenmire and Daubenmire 1968); this phenomenon has never been satisfactorily explained and again argues for recognizing separate Thuja plicata and Tsuga heterophylla types.


Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 1 - Forest & Woodland
Subclass 1.B - Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland
Formation 1.B.3 - Temperate Flooded & Swamp Forest
Division 1.B.3.Nc - Rocky Mountain-Great Basin Montane Flooded & Swamp Forest
Macrogroup Rocky Mountain-Great Basin Montane Riparian & Swamp Forest
Group Rocky Mountain-Great Basin Swamp Forest
Alliance Rocky Mountain Western Red-cedar - Western Hemlock Swamp Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL000322 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Oplopanax horridus Swamp Forest
CEGL000473 Thuja plicata / Athyrium filix-femina Forest
CEGL000491 Tsuga heterophylla / Athyrium filix-femina Forest
CEGL000497 Tsuga heterophylla - (Pseudotsuga menziesii) / Oplopanax horridus / Polystichum munitum 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
Idaho Thuja plicata - Tsuga heterophylla / Oplopanax horridus Rocky Mountain Forest Equivalent Certain IDCDC 2005
Montana Thuja plicata / Oplopanax horridus Forest Equivalent Certain MTNHP 2002
Oregon Thuja plicata / Oplopanax horridus Equivalent Certain Kagan et al. 2004


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata - (Pseudotsuga menziesii) / Oplopanax horridum - (Athyrium filix-femina - Gymnocarpium dryopteris)
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Kovalchik, B. L. 2001. Classification and management of aquatic, riparian and wetland sites on the national forests of eastern Washington. Part 1: The series descriptions. 429 pp. plus appendix. [http://www.reo.gov/col/wetland_classification/wetland_classification.pdf]
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata - Tsuga heterophylla / Oplopanax horridum - (Athyrium filix-femina - Gymnocarpium dryopteris)
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Kovalchik, B. L. 2001. Classification and management of aquatic, riparian and wetland sites on the national forests of eastern Washington. Part 1: The series descriptions. 429 pp. plus appendix. [http://www.reo.gov/col/wetland_classification/wetland_classification.pdf]
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata - Tsuga heterophylla / Oplopanax horridum
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Daubenmire, R. 1952. Forest vegetation of northern Idaho and adjacent Washington, and its bearing on concepts of vegetation classification. Ecological Monographs 22(4):301-330.
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata - Tsuga heterophylla / Oplopanax horridus / Athyrium filix-femina
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Braumandl, T. F., and M. P. Curran. 1992. A field guide for site identification and interpretation for the Nelson Forest Region. British Columbia Ministry of Forestry, Victoria, BC. Land Management Handbook No. 20.
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata / Oplopanax horridum Association
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Kovalchik, B. L. 1993. Riparian plant associations on the national forests of eastern Washington - Draft version 1. USDA Forest Service, Colville National Forest, Colville, WA. 203 pp.
Related Concept Name: Thuja plicata / Oplopanax horridum Habitat Type
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.
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Pfister, R. D., B. L. Kovalchik, S. F. Arno, and R. C. Presby. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. General Technical Report INT-34. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, UT. 174 pp.
Relationship: B - Broader
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 / Oplopanax horridus Habitat Type
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: ICHa1. Oplopanax horridum - Galium triflorum
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Utzig, G. F., P. G. Comeau, D. I. Macdonald, M. V. Ketcheson, T. F. Braumandl, A. K. Warner, and G. W. Still. 1986. A field guide for identification and interpretation of ecosystems in the Nelson Forest Region. Ministry of Forests, British Columbia. 81 pp.
Related Concept Name: ICHa2. Oplopanax horridum - Gymnocarpium dryopteris
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Utzig, G. F., P. G. Comeau, D. I. Macdonald, M. V. Ketcheson, T. F. Braumandl, A. K. Warner, and G. W. Still. 1986. A field guide for identification and interpretation of ecosystems in the Nelson Forest Region. Ministry of Forests, British Columbia. 81 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES306.803 Northern Rocky Mountain Conifer Swamp
CES306.804 Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane Riparian Woodland and Shrubland


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G3 (16Oct2002)
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: This is a relatively common wetland forest type in the interior Pacific Northwest that occupies very few acres at any given location. Total estimated acreage is less than 10,000 acres (4032 ha), and perhaps much less than this. This association supports large, valuable trees and occurs on productive sites. Many of these sites have been logged thus altering community structure and site hydrology.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: ID, MT, OR, WA
Canadian Province Distribution: BCpotentially occurs
Global Distribution: Canadapotentially occurs, United States
Global Range: This association is known from the eastern Cascades, eastern Okanogan Highlands, southeastern Thompson Plateau, and west-central northern Rockies of Washington, Idaho and Montana. It appears to also occur in British Columbia.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Marine Regime Mountains
Province Name: Cascade Mixed Forest - Coniferous Forest - Alpine Meadow Province
Province Code: M242 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Eastern Cascades Section
Section Code: M242C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Domain Name: Dry Domain
Division Name: Temperate Steppe Regime Mountains
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: Either Thuja plicata or Tsuga heterophylla dominate a nearly closed-canopy forest often with Picea engelmannii (or Picea x albertiana (= Picea engelmannii x glauca)) or Abies grandis. In Montana, Pfister et al. (1977) and Hansen et al. (1995) report that Tsuga heterophylla is present in all occurrences, but Thuja plicata is often codominant. Abies lasiocarpa, Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, and Pseudotsuga menziesii are also occasionally present in the overstory, but typically with very low cover. Tsuga heterophylla, Thuja plicata, Pseudotsuga menziesii, and Abies lasiocarpa saplings are common in the subcanopy, with the latter being most common in higher elevation occurrences in Montana. The undergrowth has a patchy to dense layer of the shrub Oplopanax horridus, a rhizomatous species varying from short to tall in stature depending on region and/or environment. Other species that infrequently occur in the shrub layer include Acer glabrum or Taxus brevifolia. The shrub layers are typically low in diversity. Herbaceous diversity is typically high, primarily composed of forbs. Athyrium filix-femina and Gymnocarpium dryopteris can be prominent members of the herbaceous layer along with Tiarella trifoliata var. unifoliata, Clintonia uniflora, Actaea rubra, Asarum caudatum, Senecio triangularis, Streptopus amplexifolius, Maianthemum stellatum, Viola orbiculata, or Osmorhiza berteroi. Mosses and lichen cover can be significant.

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)  
 
 
Acer glabrum G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Oplopanax horridus G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Clintonia uniflora G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Tiarella trifoliata G3 Flowering 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: Y
Environmental Summary: This linear, small-patch association is located within moist and mild climatic regimes in the northern Rocky Mountains of Washington, Idaho and Montana. This is a saturated to seasonally flooded wetland forest community usually found in a mosaic with other wetland or riparian Thuja plicata or Tsuga heterophylla types. Ranging in elevation from 455 to 1311 m (1500-4300 feet), it is found on seep toeslopes and along riparian zones on wet streambank terraces. Landforms include lower benches, valleys, lower stream terraces, wet bottoms, and toeslope seepage areas. Stream gradients are most typically low, but can be steep. High water tables and cold-air drainage are characteristic of these sites. Parent materials are quartzite and alluvial mixtures of metasediments, siltite, ash, and mica schist (Cooper et al. 1987). Textures tend to be coarse, ranging from loams to gravelly loamy sands. The ground surface rarely has any bare soil or rock; rather it is covered by lichen, moss, litter and downed wood, with litter depths up to 6 cm.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Trees in these wet-site stands attain great age and large size, due to the rare occurrence of stand-replacing fires (Pfister et al. 1977).


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): R.C. Crawford
Element Description Edition Date: 13Apr2004
Element Description Author(s): R.C. Crawford and M.S. Reid
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 16Oct2002
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): R.C. Crawford

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.

  • Braumandl, T. F., and M. P. Curran. 1992. A field guide for site identification and interpretation for the Nelson Forest Region. British Columbia Ministry of Forestry, Victoria, BC. Land Management Handbook No. 20.

  • 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. 1952. Forest vegetation of northern Idaho and adjacent Washington, and its bearing on concepts of vegetation classification. Ecological Monographs 22(4):301-330.

  • 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.

  • Douglas, G. W. 1971. An ecological survey of potential natural areas in the North Cascades National Park complex. Unpublished report prepared for Intercampus Education and Science Preserves Commission, State of Washington. 137 pp.

  • Franklin, J. F. 1966. Vegetation and soils in the subalpine forests of the southern Washington Cascade Range. Ph.D. dissertation, Washington State University, Pullman. 132 pp.

  • 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.

  • 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. 1993. Riparian plant associations on the national forests of eastern Washington - Draft version 1. USDA Forest Service, Colville National Forest, Colville, WA. 203 pp.

  • Kovalchik, B. L. 2001. Classification and management of aquatic, riparian and wetland sites on the national forests of eastern Washington. Part 1: The series descriptions. 429 pp. plus appendix. [http://www.reo.gov/col/wetland_classification/wetland_classification.pdf]

  • Kovalchik, Bud L. Personal communication. U.S. Forest Service riparian ecologist, retired. Colville, WA.

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

  • Mackenzie, Will. Personal communication. British Columbia Ministry of Forestry Wetlands & Riparian Specialist, Smithers, BC, Canada.

  • Parker, T. 1986a. Ecology of western redcedar groves. Unpublished dissertation, University of Idaho. 187 pp.

  • Pfister, R. D., B. L. Kovalchik, S. F. Arno, and R. C. Presby. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. General Technical Report INT-34. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, UT. 174 pp.

  • 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.

  • Utzig, G. F., P. G. Comeau, D. I. Macdonald, M. V. Ketcheson, T. F. Braumandl, A. K. Warner, and G. W. Still. 1986. A field guide for identification and interpretation of ecosystems in the Nelson Forest Region. Ministry of Forests, British Columbia. 81 pp.

  • 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.

  • Williams, C. K., and T. R. Lillybridge. 1985. Forested plant associations of the Colville National Forest. Draft. Unpublished field guide prepared for USDA Forest Service.


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