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Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea - Vaccinium scoparium Forest
Translated Name: Subalpine Fir - Engelmann Spruce / Rusty Menziesia - Grouse Whortleberry Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL005894
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association is found from central Idaho (middle Rocky Mountains) and extreme northwestern Oregon's Blue Mountains northward to northern Idaho, northwestern Montana, British Columbia and southwestern Alberta (northern Rocky Mountains and Canadian Rockies). It is generally characterized as occurring at the highest elevations of mesic forests, which is roughly from 1830 to 2200 m (6000-7200 feet). Though sites are relatively mesic, located predominantly on moderate to steep north- to east-facing slopes that may receive greater amounts of moisture due to blow-over, they are also stressful due to the frequency of high winds and cold temperatures. It is hypothesized that these sites receive less snowload and/or experience a later melt-off date than those supporting Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea / Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii Woodland (CEGL005896) and occupy colder microenvironments than does Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea / Xerophyllum tenax Forest (CEGL005895). Parent materials are various, composed of colluvium (of sedimentary and intrusive igneous nature) and ash cap to Lithosols composed of both calcareous and noncalcareous sedimentary rock. This open forest type is Abies lasiocarpa- and Picea engelmannii-dominated from the time of earliest post-shrub stage of succession. Pinus contorta and Pinus albicaulis are the only seral species of note. Tree height is usually less than 18 m (60 feet). The undergrowth is comparatively species-poor, but its cover, between the tall-shrub layer of Menziesia ferruginea, Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata, and Sorbus scopulina, and short/dwarf-shrub layer of Vaccinium membranaceum, Vaccinium scoparium, and Vaccinium myrtillus, is virtually continuous. The species-depauperate forb layer is almost invariably dominated by Xerophyllum tenax with Arnica cordifolia, Arnica latifolia, Goodyera oblongifolia, and various Pedicularis species having the highest constancy.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Low - Poorly Documented
Classification Comments: This association was previously known as, and included most of the stands (excluding a couple where Pinus contorta dominated) assigned to, the Abies lasiocarpa / Menziesia ferruginea Habitat Type, Vaccinium scoparium Phase of Cooper et al.'s (1987) classification for northern Idaho. It represents the coldest environments where Menziesia ferruginea is capable of dominating the tall-shrub layer; environments somewhat more moderate lack or have Vaccinium scoparium and Vaccinium myrtillus with highly reduced cover and environments with greater and/or longer persisting snowpack have appreciable amounts of Luzula glabrata. To the northwest, approaching the Colville National Forest of Washington, this type grades to the Abies lasiocarpa / Rhododendron albiflorum Association of Williams et al. (1995); northwestern Montana and northern Idaho have sporadic representations of Rhododendron albiflorum often associated with the plant association under discussion. This type is also very close to the Abies lasiocarpa / Rhododendron albiflorum Association of the east slope of Washington's Cascade Range (Lillybridge et al. 1995), which has no Menziesia present. If one accepts that Menziesia glabella has been unequivocally synonymized with Menziesia ferruginea (or is at least an ecological analogue), then this type would extend northward at least as far as Banff and Jasper national parks in Alberta (as Picea engelmannii - Pinus albicaulis / Menziesia ferruginea [= M. glabella] (Holland and Coen 1982); Picea engelmannii - Picea hybrid - Abies lasiocarpa / Menziesia ferruginea Habitat Type (Ogilvie 1962)). It should be noted that the northernmost extent of the type includes some floristic differences, such as Lycopodium annotinum, Cornus canadensis, and Rhododendron albiflorum.

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 Rocky Mountain Subalpine-High Montane Forest
Group Rocky Mountain Subalpine Moist Spruce - Fir Forest & Woodland
Alliance Rocky Mountain Subalpine Fir - Engelmann Spruce Moist Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL000319 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea Forest
CEGL000506 Tsuga mertensiana / Menziesia ferruginea Forest
CEGL005635 Abies lasiocarpa / Rhododendron albiflorum / Rubus lasiococcus Forest
CEGL005637 Abies lasiocarpa / Vaccinium membranaceum / Lupinus arcticus ssp. subalpinus Woodland



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea - Vaccinium scoparium Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: 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.
Related Concept Name: Abies lasiocarpa / Menziesia ferruginea Habitat Type
Relationship: I - Intersecting
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: I - Intersecting
Reference: Steele, R., R. D. Pfister, R. A. Ryker, and J. A. Kittams. 1981. Forest habitat types of central Idaho. General Technical Report INT-114. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, UT. 138 pp.
Related Concept Name: Abies lasiocarpa / Menziesia ferruginea Habitat Type, Vaccinium scoparium Phase
Relationship: I - Intersecting
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: Abies lasiocarpa / Rhododendron albiflorum 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.
Related Concept Name: Picea engelmannii - Abies lasiocarpa / Menziesia ferruginea / Vaccinium membranaceum - Xerophyllum tenax Vegetation Type
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Achuff, P. L., R. L. McNeil, M. L. Coleman, C. Wallis and C. Wershler. 2002. Ecological land classification of Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Volume I: Integrated resource description. Parks Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. 226 pp.
Related Concept Name: Picea engelmannii - Abies lasiocarpa / Menziesia ferruginea Habitat Type
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Ogilvie, R. T. 1962. Ecology of spruce forests on the east slope of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. Unpublished dissertation, Washington State University, Pullman. 189 pp.
Related Concept Name: Picea engelmannii - Abies lasiocarpa / Menziesia glabella (= M. ferruginea) / Vaccinium scoparium Vegetation Type
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Achuff, P. L., W. D. Holland, G. M. Coen, and K. Van Tighem. 1984a. Ecological land classification of Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. Alberta Institute of Pedology Publication No. M-84-10. 373 pp. plus plates and maps.
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Achuff, P. L., W. D. Holland, G. M. Coen, and K. Van Tighem. 1984b. Ecological land classification of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks, British Columbia. Alberta Institute of Pedology Publication No. M-84-11. 261 pp. plus plates and maps.
Related Concept Name: Picea engelmannii - Pinus albicaulis / Menziesia glabella Vegetation Type
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Holland, W. D., and G. M. Coen, editors. 1982. Ecological (biophysical) land classification of Banff and Jasper national parks: Volume II, soil and vegetation resources. Publication No. SS-82-44. Alberta Institute of Pedology, Edmonton, AB. 540 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES306.830 Rocky Mountain Subalpine Mesic-Wet Spruce-Fir Forest and Woodland


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2G4 (10Feb2004)
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: ID, MT, ORpotentially occurs, WApotentially occurs
Canadian Province Distribution: AB, BC
Global Distribution: Canada, United States
Global Range: This association is sporadically distributed in central Idaho and southwestern to west-central Alberta with the core of its range apparently being northern Idaho and western Montana.

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: Possible
Section Name: Eastern Cascades Section
Section Code: M242C Occurrence Status: Possible
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
Section Name: Bitterroot Valley Section
Section Code: M332B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Blue Mountains Section
Section Code: M332G Occurrence Status: Possible
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: This open forest type is Abies lasiocarpa- and Picea engelmannii-dominated following an early shrub-dominated stage of succession. Pinus contorta and Pinus albicaulis are the only seral species of note. Potential tree height is usually in the 60- to 80-foot range. The undergrowth is comparatively species-poor, but its cover, between the tall-shrub layer of Menziesia ferruginea, Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata, and Sorbus scopulina, and short/dwarf-shrub layer of Vaccinium membranaceum, Vaccinium scoparium, and Vaccinium myrtillus, can be virtually continuous; note that while the potential height of the above-named tall species is greater than 6 feet (tall shrubs) in this somewhat extreme environment they often do not attain that height. The species-depauperate forb layer is almost invariably dominated by Xerophyllum tenax with Arnica cordifolia, Arnica latifolia, Goodyera oblongifolia, and various Pedicularis species having the highest constancy. Local distinctions in the forb layer produce high constancy for Moehringia macrophylla (= Arenaria macrophylla), Anemone piperi, Orthilia secunda (= Pyrola secunda), and Viola orbiculata.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Abies lasiocarpa G3 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Picea engelmannii G3 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Menziesia ferruginea G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Vaccinium myrtillus G3 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Vaccinium scoparium G3 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Lonicera utahensis G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Vaccinium membranaceum G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Arnica cordifolia G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Arnica latifolia G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Xerophyllum tenax G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This association is found from central Idaho (middle Rocky Mountains) and extreme northwestern Oregon's Blue Mountains northward to northern Idaho, northwestern Montana, British Columbia and southwestern Alberta (northern Rocky Mountains and Canadian Rockies). It has been reliably documented as far north as Banff and Jasper national parks, Alberta (Ogilvie 1962, Holland and Coen 1982), and Glacier and Mount Revelstoke national parks, British Columbia (Achuff et al. 1984b). This association is generally characterized as occurring at the highest elevations of mesic forests, which is roughly from 1830 to 2260 m (6000-7400 feet). Site moisture regimes are predominantly mesic ranging to subhygric reflecting their locations on predominantly moderate to steep north- to east-facing slopes that may receive greater amounts of moisture due to blow-over; sites are stressed due to the frequency of high winds on these upper slopes and slope shoulders. It is hypothesized these sites receive less snowload and/or experience a later melt-off date than those supporting Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea / Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii Woodland (CEGL005896) and occupy colder microenvironments than does Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea / Xerophyllum tenax Forest (CEGL005895). In the more northern portion of its distribution, the higher elevations therein, it may even occur on west-facing slopes. Parent materials are various, from primarily composed of colluvium and ash caps to Lithosols composed of both calcareous and noncalcareous sedimentary rock. In the Canadian portion of its distribution it is found on strongly podzolized soils of glacial till and drift.


Dynamic Processes


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): Hop et al. (2007)
Element Description Edition Date: 13Feb2004
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
  • ANHIC [Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre]. 2018. Community database files. Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre, Parks and Protected Areas Division, Alberta Community Development, Edmonton.

  • Achuff, P. L., R. L. McNeil, M. L. Coleman, C. Wallis and C. Wershler. 2002. Ecological land classification of Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Volume I: Integrated resource description. Parks Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. 226 pp.

  • Achuff, P. L., W. D. Holland, G. M. Coen, and K. Van Tighem. 1984a. Ecological land classification of Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. Alberta Institute of Pedology Publication No. M-84-10. 373 pp. plus plates and maps.

  • Achuff, P. L., W. D. Holland, G. M. Coen, and K. Van Tighem. 1984b. Ecological land classification of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks, British Columbia. Alberta Institute of Pedology Publication No. M-84-11. 261 pp. plus plates and maps.

  • 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]

  • Holland, W. D., and G. M. Coen, editors. 1982. Ecological (biophysical) land classification of Banff and Jasper national parks: Volume II, soil and vegetation resources. Publication No. SS-82-44. Alberta Institute of Pedology, Edmonton, AB. 540 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.

  • 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.

  • Ogilvie, R. T. 1962. Ecology of spruce forests on the east slope of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. Unpublished dissertation, Washington State University, Pullman. 189 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.

  • Steele, R., R. D. Pfister, R. A. Ryker, and J. A. Kittams. 1981. Forest habitat types of central Idaho. General Technical Report INT-114. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, UT. 138 pp.

  • 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.


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