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Classification
Scientific Name: Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Limber-Bristlecone Pine Woodland
Unique Identifier: CES306.819
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This ecological system occurs throughout the Rocky Mountains, south of Montana, on dry, rocky ridges and slopes near upper treeline above the matrix spruce-fir forest. It extends down to the lower montane in the northeastern Great Basin mountains where dominated by Pinus flexilis. Sites are harsh, exposed to desiccating winds, with rocky substrates and a short growing season that limit plant growth. Higher-elevation occurrences are found well into the subalpine-alpine transition on wind-blasted, mostly west-facing slopes and exposed ridges. Calcareous substrates are important for Pinus flexilis-dominated communities in the northern Rocky Mountains and possibly elsewhere. The open tree canopy is often patchy and is strongly dominated by Pinus flexilis or Pinus aristata with the latter restricted to southern Colorado, northern New Mexico and the San Francisco Mountains in Arizona. In the Wyoming Rockies and northern Great Basin, Pinus albicaulis is found in some occurrences, but is a minor component. Other trees such as Juniperus spp., Pinus contorta, Pinus ponderosa, or Pseudotsuga menziesii are occasionally present. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Cercocarpus ledifolius, Juniperus communis, Mahonia repens, Purshia tridentata, Ribes montigenum, or Vaccinium spp. may form an open shrub layer in some stands. The herbaceous layer, if present, is generally sparse and composed of xeric graminoids, such as Calamagrostis purpurascens, Festuca arizonica, Festuca idahoensis, Festuca thurberi, or Pseudoroegneria spicata, or more alpine plants.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system is distinguished from lower montane and foothill limber pine stands in Wyoming and Montana. The foothill system Rocky Mountain Foothill Limber Pine-Juniper Woodland (CES306.955) is found at the lower treeline, below the zone of continuous Pinus ponderosa or Pseudotsuga menziesii woodlands and forest, and extends out into the eastern portions of these states in the foothill zones of mountain ranges, along rock outcrops, breaks along rivers, and on sheltered sites where soil moisture is slightly higher than surrounding grasslands.

This system needs to be more clearly distinguished from Northern Rocky Mountain Subalpine Woodland and Parkland (CES306.807), which also includes woodlands of Pinus flexilis and Pinus albicaulis and occurs in similar environmental settings of the northern Rocky Mountains, particularly northwestern Wyoming, Montana, and north into Alberta and British Columbia. There is a proposal to include the dry, subalpine Pinus albicaulis woodlands of the Blue Mountains (Oregon) and northern Nevada into this system, Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Limber-Bristlecone Pine Woodland (CES306.819). For Landfire, these Pinus albicaulis woodlands were included in the subalpine parkland system, but ecologically and floristically they are more similar to Rocky Mountain dry subalpine woodlands.


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL000759 Pinus aristata / Festuca arizonica Woodland
CEGL000760 Pinus aristata / Festuca thurberi Woodland
CEGL000761 Pinus aristata / Ribes montigenum Woodland
CEGL000762 Pinus aristata / Trifolium dasyphyllum Woodland
CEGL000802 Pinus flexilis / Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Woodland
CEGL000803 Pinus flexilis / Calamagrostis purpurascens Woodland
CEGL000804 Pinus flexilis / Cercocarpus ledifolius Woodland
CEGL000805 Pinus flexilis / Festuca idahoensis Woodland
CEGL000806 Pinus flexilis / Festuca campestris Woodland
CEGL000807 Pinus flexilis / Juniperus communis Woodland
CEGL000808 Pinus flexilis / Juniperus osteosperma Woodland
CEGL000809 Pinus flexilis / Juniperus scopulorum Woodland
CEGL000810 Pinus flexilis / Leucopoa kingii Woodland
CEGL000811 Pinus flexilis / Mahonia repens Woodland
CEGL000812 Pinus flexilis / Dasiphora fruticosa / Distichlis spicata Swamp Woodland
CEGL000813 Pinus flexilis / Pseudoroegneria spicata Woodland
CEGL000906 Pseudotsuga menziesii - Pinus flexilis / Leucopoa kingii Woodland
CEGL002894 Pinus aristata / Juniperus communis Woodland
CEGL002895 Pinus aristata / Vaccinium myrtillus 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
Ridge/Summit/Upper Slope  
Calcareous  
Very Shallow Soil  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon <10 cm  
Aridic  
W-Patch/High Intensity  
W-Landscape/High Intensity  
Needle-Leaved Tree  
Pinus flexilis, P. aristata  
Upper Treeline  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Montane Upper Montane
Montane Montane
Montane Lower Montane
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  
Temperate Temperate Continental
Alkaline Soil  
Moderate (100-500 yrs) Persistence  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Pinus albicaulis
  (Whitebark Pine)
G3? C: Candidate
Pinus aristata
  (Bristlecone Pine)
G3  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Populus tremuloides G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Juniperus communis G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Picea engelmannii G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Pinus aristata G3 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Pinus flexilis G4 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Ribes cereum G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Artemisia tridentata G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Purshia tridentata G4 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Artemisia frigida G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Carex rossii G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Festuca arizonica G4 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Festuca thurberi G4 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Muhlenbergia montana G5 Graminoid 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      
Mustela erminea
  (Ermine)
G5      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: CO, IDpotentially occurs, MTpotentially occurs, NM, NV, ORpotentially occurs, UT, WY
Global Range: This system occurs throughout the Rocky Mountains south of Montana on dry, rocky ridges and slopes near upper treeline, including the Uinta and northern Wasatch mountains, and the Jarbridge Mountains in northeastern Nevada. It also occurs farther east, in the Bighorn Range of north-central Wyoming, although it is not common there.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
303-Western Great Plains 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
20 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
21 Arizona-New Mexico Mountains Confident or certain
26 Northern Great Plains Steppe Confident or certain
6 Columbia Plateau Confident or certain
68 Okanagan Predicted or probable
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
7 Cascade Mountain Range Never was there
9 Blue Mountain Region Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Predicted or probable
15 Mogollon Rim Predicted or probable
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
18 Snake River Plain Confident or certain
19 Northern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
23 Colorado Plateau Predicted or probable
24 Navajo Plateau Confident or certain
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): 4244
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1057
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2057

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 14Jan2014
Element Description Author(s): K.A. Schulz

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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  • Baumeister, D., and R. M. Callaway. 2006. Facilitation of Pinus flexilis during succession: A hierarchy of mechanisms benefits other plant species. Ecology 87:1816-1830.

  • Beasley, R. S., and J. O. Klemmedson. 1980. Ecological relationships of bristlecone pine. The American Midland Naturalist 104(2):242-252.

  • Brunstein, C. R., and D. K. Yamaguchi. 1992. The oldest known Rocky Mountain bristlecone pines (Pinus aristata Engelm.). Arctic and Alpine Research 24:253-256.

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  • Coop, J. A., and A. W. Schoettle. 2011. Fire and high-elevation, five-needle pine (Pinus aristata & P. flexilis) ecosystems in the southern Rocky Mountains: What do we know? Pages 164-175 in: R. E. Keane, D. F. Tomback, M. P. Murray, and C. M. Smith, editors. The future of high-elevation, five-needle white pines in Western North America: Proceedings of the High Five Symposium. 28-30 June 2010. Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-63. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO. 376 pp. [http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_p063.html]

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  • Keane, R. E., D. F. Tomback, M. P. Murray, and C. M. Smith. 2011. The future of high-elevation, five-needle white pines in western North America. Proceedings of the High Five Symposium. Proceedings RMRS-P-63. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO. 376 pp.

  • Knight, D. H. 1994. Mountains and plains: Ecology of Wyoming landscapes. Yale University Press, New Haven, MA. 338 pp.

  • Krebs, P. H. 1972. Dendrochronology and the distribution of bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata Engelm.) in Colorado. Unpublished dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder. 211 pp.

  • LANDFIRE [Landfire National Vegetation Dynamics Database]. 2007a. Landfire National Vegetation Dynamics Models. Landfire Project, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Department of Interior. (January - last update) [http://www.LANDFIRE.gov/index.php] (accessed 8 February 2007).

  • LaMarche, V. C., Jr., and H. A. Mooney. 1972. Recent climatic change and development of the bristlecone pine (P. longaeva (Bailey)) krummholz zone, Mount Washington, Nevada. Arctic and Alpine Research 4(1):61-72.

  • Lanner R. 2007. The bristlecone book: A natural history of the world's oldest trees. Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, MT. 128 pp.

  • Lanner, R. M., and S. B. Vander Wall. 1980. Dispersal of limber pine seed by Clark's nutcracker. Journal of Forestry 78(10):637-639.

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  • NCC [The Nature Conservancy of Canada]. 2002. Canadian Rockies ecoregional plan. The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Victoria, BC.

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  • Ranne, B. M. 1995. Natural variability of vegetation, soils, and physiography in the bristlecone pine forests of the Rocky Mountains. University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY. 68 pp.

  • Ranne, B. M., W. L. Baker, T. Andrews, and M. G. Ryan. 1997. Natural variability of vegetation, soils, and physiography in the bristlecone pine forests of the Rocky Mountains. Great Basin Naturalist 57(1):21-37.

  • Schoettle, A. W., R. A. Sniezko, and K. S. Burns. 2008. Sustaining Pinus flexilis ecosystems of the southern Rocky Mountains (USA) in the presence of Cronartium ribicola and Dendroctonus ponderosae in a changing climate. In: D. Noshad, N. E. Woon, J. King, and R. A. Sniezko, editors. Breeding and genetic resources of five-needle pines. Proceedings of the Conference 2008, Yangyang, Korea. Korea Forest Research Institute, Seoul. 104 pp.

  • Schoettle, A. W., and R. A. Sniezko. 2007a. Proactive intervention to sustain high-elevation pine ecosystems threatened by white pine blister rust. Journal of Forest Research 12:327-336.

  • Steele, R., S. V. Cooper, D. M. Ondov, D. W. Roberts, and R. D. Pfister. 1983. Forest habitat types of eastern Idaho - western Wyoming. General Technical Report INT-144. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, UT. 122 pp.

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