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Classification
Scientific Name: Rocky Mountain Subalpine Mesic-Wet Spruce-Fir Forest and Woodland
Unique Identifier: CES306.830
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This is a high-elevation system of the Rocky Mountains, dry eastern Cascades and eastern Olympic Mountains dominated by Picea engelmannii and Abies lasiocarpa. It extends westward into the northeastern Olympic Mountains and the northeastern side of Mount Rainier in Washington, and as far east as mountain "islands" of north-central Montana. It also occurs northward into the Upper Foothills subregion of western Alberta. Picea engelmannii is generally more important in southern forests than those in the Pacific Northwest. Occurrences are typically found in locations with cold-air drainage or ponding, or where snowpacks linger late into the summer, such as north-facing slopes and high-elevation ravines. They can extend down in elevation below the subalpine zone in places where cold-air ponding occurs (as low as 970 m [3180 feet] in the Canadian Rockies); northerly and easterly aspects predominate. These forests are found on gentle to very steep mountain slopes, high-elevation ridgetops and upper slopes, plateau-like surfaces, basins, alluvial terraces, well-drained benches, and inactive stream terraces. In the northern Rocky Mountains of northern Idaho and Montana, Tsuga mertensiana occurs as small to large patches within the matrix of this mesic spruce-fir system and only in the most maritime of environments (the coldest and wettest of the more Continental subalpine fir forests). In the Olympics and northern Cascades, the climate is more maritime than typical for this system, but due to the lower snowfall in these rainshadow areas, summer drought may be more significant than snowpack in limiting tree regeneration in burned areas. Picea engelmannii is rare in these areas. Mesic understory shrubs include Menziesia ferruginea, Vaccinium membranaceum, Rhododendron albiflorum, Amelanchier alnifolia, Rubus parviflorus, Ledum glandulosum, Phyllodoce empetriformis, and Salix spp. Herbaceous species include Actaea rubra, Maianthemum stellatum, Cornus canadensis, Erigeron eximius, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Rubus pedatus, Saxifraga bronchialis, Tiarella spp., Lupinus arcticus ssp. subalpinus, Valeriana sitchensis, and graminoids Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii or Calamagrostis canadensis. In Alberta, species composition indicates the transition to more boreal floristics, including such species as Ledum groenlandicum and Leymus innovatus, and more abundant mosses such as Hylocomium splendens and Pleurozium schreberi. Disturbances include occasional blowdown, insect outbreaks (30-50 years), mixed-severity fire, and stand-replacing fire (every 150-500 years). The more summer-dry climatic areas also have occasional high-severity fires.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system is similar to Rocky Mountain Subalpine Dry-Mesic Spruce-Fir Forest and Woodland (CES306.828) but is distinguished by its occurrence on mesic to wet microsites within the matrix of the drier (and warmer) subalpine spruce-fir or lodgepole pine forests. The microsites include north-facing slopes, swales or ravines, toeslopes, cold pockets, and other locations where available soil moisture is higher or lasts longer into the growing season. This system is NOT confined to the northern Rocky Mountains or Pacific Northwest (it is not geographically defined, rather by topographic settings in the subalpine).

While the name of this system suggests a Rocky Mountain distribution, floristic affinities of Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir forests in western Washington and the Oregon Cascades are such that the spruce-fir forests of those regions are included in this system. The subalpine fir-dominated forests of the northeastern Olympic Mountains and the northeastern side of Mount Rainier are included here. They are more similar to subalpine fir forests on the eastern slopes of the Cascades than they are to mountain hemlock forests.


Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES306.805 Northern Rocky Mountain Dry-Mesic Montane Mixed Conifer Forest
CES306.820 Rocky Mountain Lodgepole Pine Forest
CES306.828 Rocky Mountain Subalpine Dry-Mesic Spruce-Fir Forest and Woodland


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL000294 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Acer glabrum Forest
CEGL000295 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Actaea rubra Forest
CEGL000300 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Calamagrostis canadensis Swamp Forest
CEGL000302 Abies lasiocarpa / Caltha leptosepala ssp. howellii Swamp Forest
CEGL000306 Abies lasiocarpa / Clematis columbiana var. columbiana Forest
CEGL000308 Abies lasiocarpa / Coptis occidentalis Forest
CEGL000309 Abies lasiocarpa / Cornus canadensis Forest
CEGL000314 Abies lasiocarpa / Ledum glandulosum Swamp Forest
CEGL000317 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii Woodland
CEGL000328 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii Ribbon Forest
CEGL000330 Abies lasiocarpa / Rhododendron albiflorum Woodland
CEGL000331 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Ribes (montigenum, lacustre, inerme) Forest
CEGL000332 Abies lasiocarpa / Rubus parviflorus Forest
CEGL000341 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Vaccinium membranaceum Rocky Mountain Forest
CEGL000342 Abies lasiocarpa / Vaccinium membranaceum Forest
CEGL000354 Picea engelmannii / Acer glabrum Forest
CEGL000364 Picea engelmannii / Erigeron eximius Forest
CEGL000371 Picea engelmannii / Moss Forest
CEGL000374 Picea engelmannii / Ribes montigenum Forest
CEGL000375 Picea engelmannii / Packera cardamine Forest
CEGL000414 Picea (engelmannii x glauca, engelmannii) / Packera streptanthifolia Swamp Forest
CEGL000415 Picea engelmannii / Maianthemum stellatum Forest
CEGL000504 Tsuga mertensiana / Clintonia uniflora Forest
CEGL000505 Tsuga mertensiana / Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii Forest
CEGL000506 Tsuga mertensiana / Menziesia ferruginea Forest
CEGL000508 Tsuga mertensiana / Rhododendron albiflorum Forest
CEGL000511 Tsuga mertensiana / Streptopus amplexifolius Swamp Forest
CEGL000514 Tsuga mertensiana / Vaccinium membranaceum Forest
CEGL000516 Tsuga mertensiana / Xerophyllum tenax Forest
CEGL000524 Populus tremuloides - Abies lasiocarpa / Amelanchier alnifolia Forest
CEGL000525 Populus tremuloides - Abies lasiocarpa / Carex geyeri - Calamagrostis rubescens Forest
CEGL000527 Populus tremuloides - Abies lasiocarpa / Juniperus communis Forest
CEGL000920 Abies lasiocarpa / Phyllodoce empetriformis Woodland
CEGL000986 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Salix (brachycarpa, glauca) Krummholz
CEGL002611 Abies lasiocarpa / Gymnocarpium dryopteris Forest
CEGL002612 Abies lasiocarpa / Vaccinium membranaceum / Valeriana sitchensis Forest
CEGL002676 Picea engelmannii / Physocarpus malvaceus Forest
CEGL005823 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Valeriana sitchensis Woodland
CEGL005856 Chamerion angustifolium Rocky Mountain Meadow
CEGL005892 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Clintonia uniflora - Xerophyllum tenax Forest
CEGL005893 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea / Clintonia uniflora Forest
CEGL005894 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea - Vaccinium scoparium Forest
CEGL005895 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea / Xerophyllum tenax Forest
CEGL005896 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea / Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii Woodland
CEGL005897 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Menziesia ferruginea / Streptopus amplexifolius Woodland
CEGL005898 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Xerophyllum tenax - Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii Woodland
CEGL005904 Betula papyrifera - Conifer / Clintonia uniflora Woodland
CEGL005906 Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa - Populus tremuloides - Conifer / Clintonia uniflora Riparian Forest
CEGL005912 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Clintonia uniflora Forest
CEGL005914 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Vaccinium scoparium / Xerophyllum tenax Forest
CEGL005917 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Vaccinium membranaceum / Xerophyllum tenax Forest
CEGL005918 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Vaccinium caespitosum / Clintonia uniflora Forest
CEGL005919 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Vaccinium scoparium / Thalictrum occidentale Forest
CEGL005920 Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii / Streptopus amplexifolius - Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii Woodland



Classifiers

Land Cover Class: Forest and Woodland
Spatial Pattern: Large patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: Yes
Wetland: No
Isolated Wetland: No

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Montane Upper Montane
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  
Acidic Soil  
Udic  
Very Long Disturbance Interval Seasonality/Summer Disturbance
F-Patch/High Intensity  
F-Landscape/Medium Intensity  
Abies lasiocarpa - Picea engelmannii  
RM Subalpine Dry-Mesic Spruce-Fir  
Long (>500 yrs) Persistence  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Montane Montane
Sideslope  
Toeslope/Valley Bottom  
Temperate Temperate Continental
Mesotrophic Soil  
Shallow Soil  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon >10 cm  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Botrychium ascendens
  (Upward-lobed Moonwort)
G3  
Micranthes tischii
  (Olympic Saxifrage)
G1G2  
Pedicularis rainierensis
  (Mount Rainier Lousewort)
G2G3  
Silene seelyi
  (Seely's Silene)
G2G3  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Abies lasiocarpa G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Picea engelmannii G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Menziesia ferruginea G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Vaccinium membranaceum G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Arnica cordifolia G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Erigeron eximius G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Micranthes tischii G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Pedicularis rainierensis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Silene seelyi G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Thalictrum occidentale G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Xerophyllum tenax G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Botrychium ascendens G3 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)      
 
 


Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
eristic
Exotic
Lepus americanus
  (Snowshoe Hare)
G5      
Myodes gapperi
  (Southern Red-backed Vole)
G5      
Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
  (Red Squirrel)
G5      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: AB, BC
Global Range: This system is found at high elevations of the Rocky Mountains, extending west into the northeastern Olympic Mountains and the northeastern side of Mount Rainier in Washington, and as far east as mountain "islands" of north-central Montana. It also occurs north into the Canadian Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
204-North American Pacific Maritime C: Confident or certain
304-Inter-Mountain Basins C: Confident or certain
306-Rocky Mountain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
1 Pacific Northwest Coast Confident or certain
11 Great Basin Confident or certain
20 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
21 Arizona-New Mexico Mountains Confident or certain
26 Northern Great Plains Steppe Confident or certain
4 Modoc Plateau and East Cascades Confident or certain
68 Okanagan Confident or certain
7 Canadian Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
8 Middle Rockies - Blue Mountains Confident or certain
9 Utah-Wyoming Rocky Mountains Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
1 Northern Cascades Confident or certain
6 Sierra Nevada Mountain Range Possible
7 Cascade Mountain Range Confident or certain
8 Grande Coulee Basin of the Columbia Plateau Possible
9 Blue Mountain Region Confident or certain
10 Northwestern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Confident or certain
15 Mogollon Rim Confident or certain
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
17 Eastern Great Basin Confident or certain
18 Snake River Plain Confident or certain
19 Northern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
20 Missouri River Plateau Confident or certain
21 Middle Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
22 Wyoming Basin Predicted or probable
23 Colorado Plateau Predicted or probable
24 Navajo Plateau Predicted or probable
25 Rio Grande Basin Confident or certain
27 Great Plains Tablelands Confident or certain
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
29 Wyoming Highlands Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 4243
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1056
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2056

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 30Mar2010
Element Description Author(s): R. Crawford, C. Chappell, M.S. Reid, G. Kittel

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


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"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

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