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Scientific Name: Southern Rocky Mountain Montane-Subalpine Grassland
Unique Identifier: CES306.824
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This Rocky Mountain ecological system typically occurs between 2200 and 3000 m elevation on flat to rolling plains and parks or on lower sideslopes that are dry, but it may extend up to 3350 m on warm aspects. Soils resemble prairie soils in that the A-horizon is dark brown, relatively high in organic matter, slightly acidic, and usually well-drained. An occurrence usually consists of a mosaic of two or three plant associations with one of the following dominant bunchgrasses: Danthonia intermedia, Danthonia parryi, Festuca idahoensis, Festuca arizonica, Festuca thurberi, Muhlenbergia filiculmis, or Pseudoroegneria spicata. The subdominants include Muhlenbergia montana, Bouteloua gracilis, and Poa secunda. These large-patch grasslands are intermixed with matrix stands of spruce-fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, and aspen forests. In limited circumstances (e.g., South Park in Colorado), they form the "matrix" of high-elevation plateaus. Small-patch representations of this system do occur at high elevations of the Trans-Pecos where they present as occurrences of Festuca arizonica - Blepharoneuron tricholepis Grassland (CEGL004508). These occurrences often occupy sites adjacent to Madrean Oriental Chaparral (CES302.031).

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: Montane grasslands are very similar and intergrade with their subalpine counterparts, but are separated here to represent those species that do not occur at higher altitudes. Southern outliers of this system have been identified in Texas as small patches in high-elevation sideslopes and local level plains of the Guadalupe, Chisos, and Davis mountains. These occurrences may be dominated by Festuca arizonica, Bouteloua gracilis, and Blepharoneuron tricholepis. Allium cernuum, Commelina dianthifolia, Koeleria macrantha, Muhlenbergia montana, and Silene laciniata ssp. greggii may be present. In Texas, occurrences have been identified on loams of high mountains over Tertiary volcanic formations of the Davis Mountains and Permian limestone of the Guadalupe Mountains.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES306.806 Northern Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Upper Montane Grassland

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL001479 Leymus cinereus Alkaline Wet Meadow
CEGL001578 Pascopyrum smithii - Bouteloua gracilis Grassland
CEGL001599 Deschampsia cespitosa Wet Meadow
CEGL001605 Festuca arizonica - Muhlenbergia filiculmis Grassland
CEGL001606 Festuca arizonica - Muhlenbergia montana Grassland
CEGL001612 Festuca idahoensis - Danthonia intermedia Grassland
CEGL001617 Festuca idahoensis - Festuca thurberi Grassland
CEGL001618 Festuca idahoensis - Geranium viscosissimum Grassland
CEGL001624 Festuca idahoensis - Pseudoroegneria spicata Grassland
CEGL001630 Festuca thurberi - (Lathyrus lanszwertii var. leucanthus, Potentilla spp.) Grassland
CEGL001631 Festuca thurberi Subalpine Grassland
CEGL001646 Muhlenbergia montana Grassland
CEGL001647 Muhlenbergia montana - Hesperostipa comata Grassland
CEGL001657 Poa secunda Moist Meadow
CEGL001660 Pseudoroegneria spicata Grassland
CEGL001676 Pseudoroegneria spicata - Poa fendleriana Grassland
CEGL001679 Pseudoroegneria spicata - Hesperostipa comata Grassland
CEGL001780 Muhlenbergia filiculmis Grassland
CEGL001794 Danthonia intermedia Grassland
CEGL001795 Danthonia parryi Grassland
CEGL001846 Agrostis variabilis Meadow
CEGL001874 Carex duriuscula Grassland
CEGL001879 Danthonia intermedia - Solidago multiradiata Grassland
CEGL001925 Poa fendleriana Grassland
CEGL002363 Muhlenbergia pungens Grassland
CEGL002588 Elymus lanceolatus Grassland
CEGL003081 Poa pratensis Ruderal Marsh
CEGL004508 Festuca arizonica - Blepharoneuron tricholepis Grassland
CEGL005264 Bromus inermis - (Pascopyrum smithii) Ruderal Grassland
CEGL005265 Poa pratensis - (Pascopyrum smithii) Ruderal Grassland
CEGL005377 Festuca thurberi - Danthonia parryi / Potentilla hippiana Grassland
CEGL005381 Muhlenbergia montana - Schizachyrium scoparium Grassland
CEGL005388 Carex siccata - Carex rossii Grassland
CEGL005500 Festuca (calligera, arizonica, brachyphylla) Grassland
CEGL005654 Pascopyrum smithii Southern Rocky Mountain Grassland


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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Acidic Soil  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon >10 cm  
Loam Soil Texture  
Silt Soil Texture  
Short Disturbance Interval  
Cool-season bunch grasses  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Montane Montane
Montane Lower Montane
Temperate Temperate Continental
Shallow Soil  
F-Patch/Low Intensity  
Moderate (100-500 yrs) Persistence  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Achnatherum lettermanii G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Blepharoneuron tricholepis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Bouteloua gracilis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Danthonia intermedia G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Danthonia parryi G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Elymus trachycaulus G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Festuca arizonica G4 Graminoid Herb (field)  
Festuca idahoensis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Festuca thurberi G4 Graminoid Herb (field)  
Muhlenbergia filiculmis G4 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Muhlenbergia montana G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Poa fendleriana G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Pseudoroegneria spicata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AZ, CO, ID, NM, TX, UT, WY
Global Range: This system occurs between 2200 and 3000 m (7200-10,000 feet) elevation in the Colorado Rockies. Where it transitions in Wyoming to Northern Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Upper Montane Grassland (CES306.806) still needs to be clarified. Southern outliers of this system also occur in small patches in high elevations of the mountains of the Trans-Pecos of Texas.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
302-North American Warm Desert 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
18 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
19 Colorado Plateau Confident or certain
20 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
21 Arizona-New Mexico Mountains Confident or certain
24 Chihuahuan Desert Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
12 Western Great Basin Confident or certain
15 Mogollon Rim Confident or certain
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
17 Eastern Great Basin Predicted or probable
21 Middle Rocky Mountains Predicted or probable
22 Wyoming Basin Confident or certain
23 Colorado Plateau Confident or certain
24 Navajo Plateau Confident or certain
25 Rio Grande Basin Confident or certain
26 Chihuahuan Desert Confident or certain
27 Great Plains Tablelands Confident or certain
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
29 Wyoming Highlands Confident or certain
33 Western Great Plains Predicted or probable

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 7119
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1146
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2146

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 24May2018
Element Description Author(s): L. Elliott, J. Teague and K.A. Schulz

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