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Kalmia microphylla / Carex nigricans Wet Dwarf-shrubland
Translated Name: Alpine Laurel / Black Alpine Sedge Wet Dwarf-shrubland
Unique Identifier: CEGL001402
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association may be widespread throughout the western United States and western Canada. It is currently known from California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, and British Columbia. This is a dwarf-shrubland association found in moist subalpine and alpine meadows, snowbeds, lake margins, and other low-gradient depressions of the northern Rockies and Pacific ranges from 1585 to 3965 m (5200-13,000 feet) in elevation. These habitats are cold and snowy, with snowfields lingering into June or later. Soils are frigid, derived from bedrock or aggraded alluvium, usually high in organic matter, and strongly acidic. These communities are often associated with hummocky topography, which provides a juxtaposition of saturated and somewhat drained microhabitats. Water tables are often at or near the surface for much of the growing season, and organic decomposition is slow. This association is typified by a dominant dwarf-shrub layer of Kalmia microphylla. Other ericaceous shrubs, including Phyllodoce empetriformis, Phyllodoce breweri, Ledum glandulosum (not in Colorado), Gaultheria humifusa, and Vaccinium spp., are common associates. Dwarf Salix spp. may also be present, such as Salix farriae or Salix arctica. The herbaceous layer is typically dominated by graminoids, of which Carices usually predominate. Carex nigricans is the dominant species, with cover ranging from 10% to well over 50% or more. Carex scopulorum, Carex spectabilis, Carex aquatilis, Carex norvegica ssp. stevenii, Carex nova, Carex canescens, and Carex pellita are especially common. Grasses, such as Calamagrostis canadensis, Deschampsia cespitosa, Danthonia intermedia, and Phleum alpinum, may also be locally abundant. Mesic to hygric forbs are usually scattered through the graminoid matrix, including Symphyotrichum spathulatum, Oreostemma alpigenum, Pedicularis groenlandica, Caltha leptosepala, Parnassia fimbriata, Trollius laxus, Veronica spp., Gentiana spp., Dodecatheon spp., and Epilobium spp. The moss layer is often virtually continuous but can also be only a few percent.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Low
Classification Comments: This association is defined as a PNV vegetation type. If it were renamed as a dominance type, the species would include Kalmia microphylla and Salix farriae. The dwarf-shrubland recognized here (CEGL001402) keys on the dependably chionophilous nature of Carex nigricans and the recognition that Kalmia microphylla is strongly associated with hygric to hydric sites with significant peat accumulations.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 2 - Shrub & Herb Vegetation
Subclass 2.C - Shrub & Herb Wetland
Formation 2.C.4 - Temperate to Polar Freshwater Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland
Division 2.C.4.Nb - Western North American Temperate & Boreal Freshwater Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland
Macrogroup Western North American Montane Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland
Group Vancouverian-Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Alpine Snowbed, Wet Meadow & Dwarf-shrubland
Alliance Alpine Laurel - Moss-heather - Mountain-avens Wet Dwarf-shrubland

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL001403 Kalmia microphylla / Carex scopulorum Wet Dwarf-shrubland



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 Kalmia microphylla / Carex nigricans Equivalent Certain Kagan et al. 2004


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Aulacomnio - Kalmietum microphyllae Association
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Damm, C. 2001. A phytosociological study of Glacier National Park, Montana, U. S. A., with notes on the syntaxonomy of alpine vegetation in western North America. Dissertation from Georg - August University, Germany. 297 pp. plus appendices.
Related Concept Name: Carex nigricans - Kalmia polifolia Herbaceous Vegetation
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Keeler-Wolf, T. 2002. Classification of the vegetation of Yosemite National Park and surrounding environs in Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera and Mono counties, California. NatureServe in cooperation with the California Native Plant Society and California Natural Heritage Program, Wildlife and Habitat Data Analysis Branch, California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA. August 2002.
Related Concept Name: Carex nigricans - Kalmia polifolia Herbaceous Vegetation [Provisional]
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Keeler-Wolf, T., P. E. Moore, E. T. Reyes, J. M. Menke, D. N. Johnson, and D. L. Karavidas. 2012. Yosemite National Park vegetation classification and mapping project report. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/YOSE/NRTR--2012/598. National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO.
Related Concept Name: Carex nigricans (Showy sedge sod) Provisional Alliance
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Sawyer, J. O., T. Keeler-Wolf, and J. Evens. 2009. A manual of California vegetation. Second edition. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento CA. 1300 pp.
Related Concept Name: Kalmia microphylla / Carex nigricans
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Wooten, G., and P. Morrison. 1995. Classification of vascular plant communities of the North Cascades using discreet space boundary analysis. Unpublished report. 113 pp.
Related Concept Name: Kalmia microphylla / Carex nigricans Association
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Crowe, E. A., B. L. Kovalchik, and M. J. Kerr. 2004. Riparian and wetland vegetation of central and eastern Oregon. Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center, Institute for Natural Resources, Oregon State University, Portland. 473 pp. [http://oregonstate.edu/ornhic/ publications.html]
Related Concept Name: Kalmia microphylla-Carex nigricans Dwarf-shrubland
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Crawford, R. C., C. B. Chappell, C. C. Thompson, and F. J. Rocchio. 2009. Vegetation classification of Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic national parks. Plant association descriptions and identification keys: Appendices A-G. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NCCN/NRTR--2009/D-586. National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO. 586 pp.
Related Concept Name: Kalmia microphylla (Alpine laurel heath) Provisional Alliance
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Sawyer, J. O., T. Keeler-Wolf, and J. Evens. 2009. A manual of California vegetation. Second edition. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento CA. 1300 pp.
Related Concept Name: Kalmia polifolia / Aster alpigenus association
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Hamann, M. J. 1972. Vegetation of alpine and subalpine meadows of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Unpublished thesis, Washington State University, Pullman. 120 pp.
Related Concept Name: Salix farriae / Carex nigricans 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: Sibbaldio procumbentis - Phyllodocetum glanduliflorae Association
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Damm, C. 2001. A phytosociological study of Glacier National Park, Montana, U. S. A., with notes on the syntaxonomy of alpine vegetation in western North America. Dissertation from Georg - August University, Germany. 297 pp. plus appendices.
Related Concept Name: Blackish Sedge - Mountain Laurel Association
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Taylor, D. W. 1984. Vegetation of the Harvey Monroe Hall Research Natural Area, Inyo National Forest, California. Unpublished report. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Berkeley, CA.

Ecological Systems Placement

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

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: CA, CO, MT, OR, WA
Canadian Province Distribution: ABpotentially occurs, BCpotentially occurs
Global Distribution: Canada, United States
Global Range: This association may be widespread throughout the western United States and western Canada. It is currently known from California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, and 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: Oregon and Washington Coast Ranges Section
Section Code: M242A Occurrence Status: Possible
Section Name: Western Cascades Section
Section Code: M242B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Eastern Cascades Section
Section Code: M242C Occurrence Status: Possible
Division Name: Mediterranean Regime Mountains
Province Name: Sierran Steppe - Mixed Forest - Coniferous Forest - Alpine Meadow Province
Province Code: M261 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Sierra Nevada Section
Section Code: M261E Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
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: Rocky Mountain Front Section
Section Code: M332C 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: Northern Rockies Section
Section Code: M333C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: This association is typified by a dominant dwarf-shrub layer of Kalmia microphylla. Other ericaceous shrubs, including Phyllodoce empetriformis, Phyllodoce breweri, Ledum glandulosum, and Vaccinium spp., are common associates. Dwarf Salix spp. may also be present, such as Salix farriae or Salix arctica. The herbaceous layer is typically dominated by graminoids, of which Carices usually predominate. Carex nigricans is the dominant species, with cover ranging from 10% to well over 50% or more. Carex scopulorum, Carex spectabilis, Carex aquatilis, Carex canescens, and Carex pellita (= Carex lanuginosa) are especially common. Grasses, such as Deschampsia cespitosa, Danthonia intermedia, and Phleum alpinum, may also be locally abundant. Mesic to hygric forbs are usually scattered through the graminoid matrix including Symphyotrichum spathulatum (= Aster occidentalis), Oreostemma alpigenum (= Aster alpigenus), Pedicularis groenlandica, Caltha leptosepala, Parnassia fimbriata, Trollius laxus, Veronica spp., Gentiana spp., Dodecatheon spp., and Epilobium spp. The moss layer is often virtually continuous but can also be only a few percent.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Kalmia microphylla G3 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Carex nigricans G3 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex scopulorum G3 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Trichophorum clementis G3 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Trichophorum clementis
  (Yosemite Bulrush)
G3  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: Y
Environmental Summary: Vegetation within this association is found in moist subalpine and alpine meadows, snowbeds, lake margins, and other low-gradient depressions of the Northern to Southern Rockies and Pacific ranges from 5200-13,000 feet in elevation. These habitats are cold and snowy, with snowfields lingering into June or later. Soils are frigid, derived from bedrock or aggraded alluvium, usually high in organic matter, and strongly acidic. These communities are often associated with hummocky topography, which provides a juxtaposition of saturated and somewhat drained microhabitats. Water tables are often at or near the surface for much of the growing season, and organic decomposition is slow.


Dynamic Processes


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): T. Keeler-Wolf
Element Description Edition Date: 12Sep2018
Element Description Author(s): T. Keeler-Wolf and M.S. Reid

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


References
  • ANHIC [Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre]. 2018. Community database files. Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre, Parks and Protected Areas Division, Alberta Community Development, Edmonton.

  • Ackerfield, J. 2015. Flora of Colorado. Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, TX. 818 pp.

  • 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.

  • CNHP [Colorado Natural Heritage Program]. 2006-2017. Tracked natural plant communities. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins. [https://cnhp.colostate.edu/ourdata/trackinglist/plant_communities/]

  • Crawford, R. C., C. B. Chappell, C. C. Thompson, and F. J. Rocchio. 2009. Vegetation classification of Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic national parks. Plant association descriptions and identification keys: Appendices A-G. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NCCN/NRTR--2009/D-586. National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO. 586 pp.

  • Crowe, E. A., B. L. Kovalchik, and M. J. Kerr. 2004. Riparian and wetland vegetation of central and eastern Oregon. Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center, Institute for Natural Resources, Oregon State University, Portland. 473 pp. [http://oregonstate.edu/ornhic/ publications.html]

  • Culver, D. R. and J. M. Lemly. 2013. Field Guide to Colorado's Wetland Plants: Identification, Ecology and Conservation. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University. 694 pp.

  • Damm, C. 2001. A phytosociological study of Glacier National Park, Montana, U. S. A., with notes on the syntaxonomy of alpine vegetation in western North America. Dissertation from Georg - August University, Germany. 297 pp. plus appendices.

  • Hamann, M. J. 1972. Vegetation of alpine and subalpine meadows of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Unpublished thesis, Washington State University, Pullman. 120 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.

  • 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.

  • Keeler-Wolf, T. 2002. Classification of the vegetation of Yosemite National Park and surrounding environs in Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera and Mono counties, California. NatureServe in cooperation with the California Native Plant Society and California Natural Heritage Program, Wildlife and Habitat Data Analysis Branch, California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA. August 2002.

  • Keeler-Wolf, T., M. Schindel, S. San, P. Moore, and D. Hickson. 2003a. Classification of the vegetation of Yosemite National Park and surrounding environs in Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera and Mono counties, California. Unpublished report by NatureServe in cooperation with the California Native Plant Society and California Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife and Habitat Data Analysis Branch, Sacramento, CA.

  • Keeler-Wolf, T., P. E. Moore, E. T. Reyes, J. M. Menke, D. N. Johnson, and D. L. Karavidas. 2012. Yosemite National Park vegetation classification and mapping project report. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/YOSE/NRTR--2012/598. National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Sawyer, J. O., T. Keeler-Wolf, and J. Evens. 2009. A manual of California vegetation. Second edition. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento CA. 1300 pp.

  • Taylor, D. W. 1984. Vegetation of the Harvey Monroe Hall Research Natural Area, Inyo National Forest, California. Unpublished report. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Berkeley, CA.

  • 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.

  • Wingate, J. 2017. Sedges of Colorado. Colorado Native Plant Society, Fort Collins.

  • Wooten, G., and P. Morrison. 1995. Classification of vascular plant communities of the North Cascades using discreet space boundary analysis. Unpublished report. 113 pp.


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