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Populus balsamifera (ssp. trichocarpa, ssp. balsamifera) / Symphoricarpos (albus, oreophilus, occidentalis) Riparian Forest
Translated Name: (Black Cottonwood, Balsam Poplar) / (Common Snowberry, Mountain Snowberry, Western Snowberry) Riparian Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL000677
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association is known from the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, through the Columbia Basin to the Cascades of eastern Washington, into central and northern Idaho, western Wyoming, and north to the mountains of southern British Columbia. This late-seral association typically occurs at low elevations from 579 to 2040 m (1900-6693 feet) in broad mountain valleys and canyons of low- to moderate-gradient streams and rivers. The association occupies alluvial terraces with deep silty loam soils (over cobble and gravel) on infrequently flooded sites well above the average high-water line and summer water table. Tall and mature Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa form the open to closed overstory canopy, with occasional understory asexual reproduction and conifers present. Conifer species, especially Pinus ponderosa and Pseudotsuga menziesii, may indicate the potential successional pathway on these relatively dry terrace sites. The shrub layer is clearly dominated by one species of Symphoricarpos, either Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos oreophilus, or Symphoricarpos occidentalis (usually with at least 20% cover), although a variety of other tall and medium shrubs (all with cover less than Symphoricarpos albus) are often present. The most consistently prominent shrubs are Acer glabrum, Amelanchier alnifolia, Crataegus douglasii, Philadelphus lewisii, Prunus virginiana, Rosa spp., and Rubus parviflorus, the presence of which may reflect successional relationships with other alluvial terrace associations. The herbaceous layer is diverse, but has only moderate cover, and often includes exotic species indicative of past disturbance. Perennial grasses, especially Elymus glaucus, Phalaris arundinacea, and Poa pratensis, often codominate with various tall forbs and Equisetum spp. The most important forbs include Clematis ligusticifolia, Heracleum maximum, Maianthemum spp., Thalictrum occidentale, and Urtica dioica.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: This association is defined as a PNV vegetation type. This association has been quantitatively described by eight different studies with at least 49 plots (Kovalchik 1987, Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997, Moseley and Bursik 1994, Crawford 2001, Jankovsky-Jones et al. 2001, Kovalchik 2001, Crowe et al. 2002, Grand Teton National Park 2004-2005). This association belongs to a complex of ecologically related associations with similar species composition, including Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Alnus incana Riparian Forest (CEGL000667), Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Crataegus douglasii Riparian Forest (CEGL000673), and others not yet incorporated into the National Vegetation Classification, including Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Acer glabrum and Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Philadelphus lewisii (Crowe and Clausnitzer 1987, Crawford 2001, Holmstead 2001, Jankovsky-Jones et al. 2001, Crowe et al. 2002). The understory dominance by Symphoricarpos albus, with higher cover and constancy than tall shrubs, separates this association from those where Acer glabrum, Alnus incana, Crataegus douglasii, or Philadelphus lewisii have equal or greater cover and constancy. We include stands dominated by Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa and any species of Symphoricarpos because they all occupy a similar ecological niche within the riparian zone, that is the higher, older terraces. In addition, some studies had more than one species of Symphoricarpos dominating the shrub layer [see Hall and Hansen (1997)]. Symphoricarpos species are wide ranging across the West and even into the Midwest, while the cottonwood dominating the overstory is the better indicator for the geographic distribution for the association.

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 Northern Rocky Mountain Lowland-Foothill Riparian Forest
Alliance Northern Rocky Mountain Riparian Black Cottonwood Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL003362 Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa - Alnus rubra / Symphoricarpos albus Riparian Forest
CEGL003363 Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa - Acer macrophyllum / Symphoricarpos albus Riparian 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 Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos albus (oreophilus, occidentalis) Forest Equivalent Certain IDCDC 2005
Montana Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos albus Forest Equivalent Certain MTNHP 2002
Oregon Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos albus Equivalent Certain Kagan et al. 2004


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos albus 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: Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos albus Temporarily Flooded Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Crawford, R. C. 2003. Riparian vegetation classification of the Columbia Basin, Washington. Natural Heritage Report 2003-03. Washington Natural Heritage Program, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Olympia. 98 pp. plus appendices.
Related Concept Name: Populus trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos albus
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Crowe, E. A., and R. R. Clausnitzer. 1997. Mid-montane wetland plant associations of the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman national forests. Technical Paper R6-NR-ECOL-TP-22-97. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR.
Related Concept Name: Populus trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos albus Community Type
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Evans, S. 1989a. Riparian survey of Washington's Columbia Basin. Unpublished report prepared for The Nature Conservancy Washington Natural Heritage Program, Olympia, Washington.
Related Concept Name: Populus trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos occidentalis Community Type
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Hall, J. B., and P. L. Hansen. 1997. A preliminary riparian habitat type classification system for the Bureau of Land Management districts in southern and eastern Idaho. Riparian and Wetland Research Program, School of Forestry, University of Montana. Idaho Bureau of Land Management, Technical Bulletin No. 97-11. 381 pp.
Related Concept Name: Populus trichocarpa / Symphoricarpos occidentalis Habitat Type
Relationship: I - Intersecting
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: Black cottonwood / common snowberry / Kentucky bluegrass community type
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: 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.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES204.869 North Pacific Lowland Riparian Forest and Shrubland
CES304.768 Columbia Basin Foothill Riparian Woodland and Shrubland
CES306.804 Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane Riparian Woodland and Shrubland


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2 (22Oct2002)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This association is a relatively wide-ranging and broadly defined association occurring on infrequently flooded alluvial terraces of low-elevation streams and rivers of the inland Pacific Northwest. It is usually distinct from related Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa stands with tall-shrub understories. This type is not as immediately affected by flow alteration as some other Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa types, but the quality and viability of most occurrences are decreased due to many anthropogenic disturbances, including flow regime changes. These disturbances include clearing for road building and urbanization; recreation impacts; dams, flood control levees, and diversions reducing flood peaks and deposition necessary for Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa reproduction; and cattle grazing (decreasing Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa and Symphoricarpos spp. reproduction while promoting exotic species). Interruption of the natural flooding regime on many low-elevation rivers with potential to support this association have occurred resulting in long-term declines from lack of stand replacement. Although there are about 40 to 50 known occurrences, most stands cover relatively small areas and are in poor to fair ecological condition. For these reasons, changing the original rank from G2? to G2 is justified.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: ID, MT, OR, WA, WY
Canadian Province Distribution: BCpotentially occurs
Global Distribution: Canadapotentially occurs, United States
Global Range: This association is known from low-elevation, large rivers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Wyoming, and British Columbia. It has been report from Montana as part of another community [see Hansen et al. (1995)].

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Dry Domain
Division Name: Temperate Desert Division
Province Name: Intermountain Semi-Desert Province
Province Code: 342 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Bighorn Basin Section
Section Code: 342A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Northwestern Basin and Range Section
Section Code: 342B Occurrence Status: Possible
Section Name: Owyhee Uplands Section
Section Code: 342C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: High Lava Plains Section
Section Code: 342H Occurrence Status: Possible
Section Name: Columbia Basin Section
Section Code: 342I Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
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: Western Cascades Section
Section Code: M242B Occurrence Status: Possible
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: Southern Rocky Mountain Steppe - Open Woodland - Coniferous Forest - Alpine Meadow Province
Province Code: M331 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Overthrust Mountains Section
Section Code: M331D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Province Name: Middle Rocky Mountain Steppe - Coniferous Forest - Alpine Meadow Province
Province Code: M332 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Blue Mountains Section
Section Code: M332G 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: Northern Rockies Section
Section Code: M333C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: Tall and mature Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa form the open to closed overstory canopy, with occasional understory asexual reproduction and conifers present. Conifer species, especially Pinus ponderosa and Pseudotsuga menziesii, may indicate the potential successional pathway on these relatively dry terrace sites. The shrub layer is clearly dominated by one species of Symphoricarpos, either Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos oreophilus, or Symphoricarpos occidentalis (usually with at least 20% cover), although a variety of other tall and medium shrubs (all with cover less than Symphoricarpos sp.) are usually present. The most consistently prominent shrubs are Acer glabrum, Amelanchier alnifolia, Crataegus douglasii, Philadelphus lewisii, Prunus virginiana, Rosa spp., and Rubus parviflorus, the presence of which may reflect successional relationships with other alluvial terrace associations. The herbaceous layer is diverse, but has only moderate cover, and often includes exotic species indicative of past disturbance. Perennial grasses, especially Elymus glaucus, Phalaris arundinacea, and Poa pratensis, often codominate with various tall forbs and Equisetum spp. The most important forbs include Clematis ligusticifolia, Heracleum maximum, Maianthemum spp., Wyethia amplexicaulis, Thalictrum occidentale, Urtica dioica, Geranium viscosissimum, and Helianthella uniflora.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Populus balsamifera G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy
 
 
Symphoricarpos albus G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Symphoricarpos occidentalis G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Symphoricarpos oreophilus G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Bassia scoparia G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Cirsium arvense G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Geranium viscosissimum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Taraxacum officinale G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Tragopogon dubius G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Urtica dioica G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Agrostis stolonifera G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Bromus tectorum G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Phalaris arundinacea G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Poa pratensis G2 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: Y
Environmental Summary: This late-seral association typically occurs at low elevations from 579 to 2040 m (1900-6693 feet) in broad mountain valleys and canyons of low- to moderate-gradient streams and rivers. The association occupies alluvial terraces and elevated streambanks with deep silty loam soils (over cobble and gravel) on infrequently flooded sites well above the average high-water line and summer water table.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: This association is a mid- to late-seral association that usually occurs on inactive floodplain terraces that flood only episodically. Over time, these terraces may wash away from lateral movement of the channel (Moseley and Bursik 1994, Hansen et al. 1995). In addition, Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa reproduction is low and limited to less vigorous asexual suckering. Without intact ecological processes promoting stand replacement and succession, long-term persistence of this type will decrease. Young stands of Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa establish on fresh alluvium found on point bars and banks of rivers with intact, natural flooding regimes (Moseley and Bursik 1994, Hansen et al. 1995, Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997, Crawford 2001, Jankovsky-Jones et al. 2001, Kovalchik 2001). As rivers downcut and channels migrate over time, these point bars and banks are less frequently flooded and loamy soils develop. These sites are favorable for Symphoricarpos albus establishment and formation of new stands of this association.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): C. Murphy
Element Description Edition Date: 07Jul2005
Element Description Author(s): C. Murphy and G. Kittel
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 22Oct2002
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): C. Murphy

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


References
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  • Crawford, R. C. 2001. Initial riparian and wetland classification and characterization of the Columbia Basin in Washington. Prepared for Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management, Spokane District. Washington Natural Heritage Program, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Olympia. 83 pp.

  • Crawford, R. C. 2003. Riparian vegetation classification of the Columbia Basin, Washington. Natural Heritage Report 2003-03. Washington Natural Heritage Program, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Olympia. 98 pp. plus appendices.

  • 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]

  • Crowe, E. A., and R. R. Clausnitzer. 1997. Mid-montane wetland plant associations of the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman national forests. Technical Paper R6-NR-ECOL-TP-22-97. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR.

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