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Classification
Scientific Name: Rocky Mountain Alpine Turf
Unique Identifier: CES306.816
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This widespread ecological system occurs above upper treeline throughout the Rocky Mountain cordillera, including alpine areas of ranges in Utah and Nevada, and isolated alpine sites in the northeastern Cascades. It is found on gentle to moderate slopes, flat ridges, valleys, and basins, where the soil has become relatively stabilized and the water supply is more or less constant. Vegetation in these areas is controlled by snow retention, wind desiccation, permafrost, and a short growing season. This system is characterized by a dense cover of low-growing, perennial graminoids and forbs. Rhizomatous, sod-forming sedges are the dominant graminoids, and prostrate and mat-forming plants with thick rootstocks or taproots characterize the forbs. Dominant species include Artemisia arctica, Carex elynoides, Carex siccata, Carex scirpoidea, Carex nardina, Carex rupestris, Festuca brachyphylla, Festuca idahoensis, Geum rossii, Kobresia myosuroides, Phlox pulvinata, and Trifolium dasyphyllum. Many other graminoids, forbs, and prostrate shrubs can also be found, including Calamagrostis purpurascens, Deschampsia caespitosa, Dryas octopetala, Leucopoa kingii, Poa arctica, Saxifraga spp., Selaginella densa, Sibbaldia procumbens, Silene acaulis, Solidago spp., and Trifolium parryi. Although alpine dry tundra is the matrix of the alpine zone, it typically intermingles with alpine bedrock and scree, ice field, fell-field, alpine dwarf-shrubland, and alpine/subalpine wet meadow systems.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL001133 Ribes montigenum Shrubland
CEGL001631 Festuca thurberi Subalpine Grassland
CEGL001656 Poa nervosa - Achnatherum lettermanii Grassland
CEGL001666 Pseudoroegneria spicata - Cushion Plants Grassland
CEGL001736 Carex duriuscula - Poa secunda Alpine Turf
CEGL001797 Festuca brachyphylla Alpine Meadow
CEGL001808 Carex siccata - Geum rossii Alpine Turf
CEGL001848 Artemisia arctica ssp. arctica Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001850 Calamagrostis purpurascens Alpine Meadow
CEGL001851 Carex arapahoensis Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001852 Carex elynoides Alpine Turf
CEGL001853 Carex elynoides - Geum rossii Alpine Turf
CEGL001854 Carex elynoides - Lupinus argenteus Alpine Turf
CEGL001855 Carex elynoides - Oreoxis spp. Alpine Turf
CEGL001856 Carex elynoides - Oxytropis sericea Alpine Turf
CEGL001858 Carex perglobosa - Silene acaulis Alpine Sparse Meadow
CEGL001861 Carex rupestris - Geum rossii Alpine Turf
CEGL001862 Carex rupestris - Potentilla ovina Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001863 Carex rupestris - Trifolium dasyphyllum Alpine Turf
CEGL001864 Carex rupestris var. drummondiana Alpine Turf
CEGL001866 Carex scirpoidea - Geum rossii Alpine Turf
CEGL001867 Carex scirpoidea - Potentilla diversifolia Alpine Turf
CEGL001868 Carex vernacula Wet Meadow
CEGL001870 Carex spp. - Geum rossii Alpine Turf
CEGL001873 Carex ebenea - Trifolium parryi Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001875 Carex haydeniana Alpine Turf
CEGL001891 Dryas octopetala Alpine Dwarf-shrub Meadow
CEGL001892 Dryas octopetala - Carex rupestris Alpine Dwarf-shrub Meadow
CEGL001893 Dryas octopetala - Carex spp. Alpine Dwarf-shrub Meadow
CEGL001895 Festuca brachyphylla - Geum rossii var. turbinatum Alpine Turf
CEGL001896 Festuca brachyphylla - Trisetum spicatum Alpine Turf
CEGL001907 Kobresia myosuroides - Carex rupestris var. drummondiana Alpine Turf
CEGL001908 Kobresia myosuroides - Geum rossii Alpine Turf
CEGL001909 Kobresia myosuroides - Trifolium dasyphyllum Alpine Turf
CEGL001910 Leucopoa kingii Grassland
CEGL001911 Leucopoa kingii - Carex elynoides Grassland
CEGL001912 Leucopoa kingii - Oxytropis campestris Grassland
CEGL001913 Leucopoa kingii - Phlox pulvinata Grassland
CEGL001914 Leucopoa kingii - Poa fendleriana ssp. fendleriana Grassland
CEGL001919 Minuartia obtusiloba Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001924 Poa arctica ssp. grayana Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001927 Poa lettermanii Grassland
CEGL001929 Saxifraga chrysantha Alpine Sparse Vegetation
CEGL001933 Sibbaldia procumbens - Polygonum bistortoides Wet Meadow
CEGL001959 Cirsium scopulorum - Polemonium viscosum Alpine Sparse Meadow
CEGL001964 Geum rossii Alpine Meadow
CEGL001965 Geum rossii - Minuartia obtusiloba Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001966 Geum rossii - Carex albonigra Alpine Meadow
CEGL001968 Geum rossii - Selaginella densa Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001970 Geum rossii - Trifolium spp. Alpine Turf
CEGL005830 Arctostaphylos uva-ursi / Festuca campestris - Festuca idahoensis Dwarf-shrubland
CEGL005831 Arctostaphylos uva-ursi / Pseudoroegneria spicata Dwarf-shrubland
CEGL005832 Arctostaphylos uva-ursi / Solidago multiradiata Dwarf-shrubland
CEGL005866 Carex scirpoidea - Zigadenus elegans Alpine Meadow



Classifiers

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
Alpine/AltiAndino Alpine/AltiAndino
Oligotrophic Soil  
Very Shallow Soil  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon <10 cm  
Aridic  
Very Long Disturbance Interval  
Graminoid  
Alpine Slopes  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Herbaceous  
Temperate Temperate Continental
Periglacial  
Glaciated  
Long (>500 yrs) Persistence  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Draba sphaeroides
  (Mountain Whitlow-grass)
G2G3  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Artemisia arctica G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Artemisia scopulorum G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Geum rossii G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Geum rossii var. turbinatum T4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Minuartia obtusiloba G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Phlox pulvinata G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Polygonum bistortoides G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Potentilla diversifolia G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Trifolium dasyphyllum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Trifolium parryi G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex elynoides G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex nardina G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex rupestris G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex rupestris var. drummondiana T5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex scirpoidea G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex siccata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Deschampsia caespitosa G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Festuca brachyphylla G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Festuca brachyphylla ssp. coloradensis TNR Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Festuca idahoensis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Kobresia myosuroides G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Luzula spicata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Poa alpina G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Trisetum spicatum 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
Lagopus leucura
  (White-tailed Ptarmigan)
G5      
Leucosticte australis
  (Brown-capped Rosy-Finch)
G4      
Marmota flaviventris
  (Yellow-bellied Marmot)
G5      
Mustela erminea
  (Ermine)
G5      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AKpotentially occurs, AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: AB, BC
Global Range: This system occurs above upper treeline throughout the North American Rocky Mountain cordillera, including alpine areas of ranges in Utah and Nevada, central Wyoming, and isolated alpine sites in the northeastern Cascades.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
204-North American Pacific Maritime P: Predicted or probable
306-Rocky Mountain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
11 Great Basin Confident or certain
20 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
21 Arizona-New Mexico Mountains 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 Predicted or probable
7 Cascade Mountain Range Predicted or probable
9 Blue Mountain Region Possible
10 Northwestern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Predicted or probable
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
17 Eastern Great Basin Confident or certain
18 Snake River Plain Possible
19 Northern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
20 Missouri River Plateau Possible
21 Middle Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
22 Wyoming Basin Possible
23 Colorado Plateau Confident or certain
24 Navajo Plateau Confident or certain
25 Rio Grande Basin Confident or certain
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
29 Wyoming Highlands Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 7117
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1144
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2144

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 02Apr2014
Element Description Author(s): R. Crawford and M.S. Reid

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


References
  • Baker, W. L. 1980a. Alpine vegetation of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, New Mexico: Gradient analysis and classification. Unpublished thesis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 55 pp.

  • Bamberg, S. A. 1961. Plant ecology of alpine tundra area in Montana and adjacent Wyoming. Unpublished dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder. 163 pp.

  • Bamberg, S. A., and J. Major. 1968. Ecology of the vegetation and soils associated with calcareous parent materials in three alpine regions of Montana. Ecological Monographs 38(2):127-167.

  • Comer, P., D. Faber-Langendoen, R. Evans, S. Gawler, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, K. Snow, J. Teague, and R. White. 2003-present. Ecological systems of the United States: A working classification of U.S. terrestrial systems. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.

  • Cooper, S. V., P. Lesica, and D. Page-Dumroese. 1997. Plant community classification for alpine vegetation on Beaverhead National Forest, Montana. Report INT-GTR-362. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden, UT. 61 pp.

  • Cox, C. F. 1933. Alpine plant succession on James Peak, Colorado. Ecological Monographs 3:299-372.

  • Douglas, G. W., and L. C. Bliss. 1977. Alpine and high subalpine plant communities of the North Cascades Range, Washington and British Columbia. Ecological Monographs 47:113-150.

  • Ecosystems Working Group. 1998. Standards for broad terrestrial ecosystem classification and mapping for British Columbia. Prepared by the Ecosystems Working Group, Terrestrial Ecosystem Task Force, Resources Inventory Committee, for the Province of British Columbia. 174 pp. plus appendices. [http://srmwww.gov.bc.ca/risc/pubs/teecolo/tem/indextem.htm]

  • Hess, K. 1981. Phyto-edaphic study of habitat types of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado. Unpublished dissertation, Colorado State University, Fort Collins. 558 pp.

  • Komarkova, V. 1976. Alpine vegetation of the Indian Peaks Area, Front Range, Colorado Rocky Mountains. Unpublished dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder. 655 pp.

  • Komarkova, V. 1980. Classification and ordination in the Indian Peaks area, Colorado Rocky Mountains. Vegetatio 42:149-163.

  • Komarkova, V. 1986. Habitat types on selected parts of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre national forests. Unpublished final report prepared for USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Fort Collins, CO. 270 pp. plus appendices.

  • Lewis, M. E. 1970. Alpine rangelands of the Uinta Mountains, Ashley and Wasatch national forests, Region 4 of the USDA Forest Service. Unpublished report mimeographed for USDA Forest Service, Region IV, Ogden, UT. 75 pp.

  • Marr, J. W., and B. E. Willard. 1970. Persisting vegetation in an alpine recreation area in the southern Rocky Mountains Colorado. Biological Conservation 2:97-104.

  • Meidinger, D., and J. Pojar, editors. 1991. Ecosystems of British Columbia. British Columbia Ministry of Forests Special Report Series No. 6. Victoria, BC. 330 pp.

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

  • NatureServe Explorer. 2011. Descriptions of ecological systems. Data current as of April 02, 2011. NatureServe, Arlington, VA. [http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/index.htm]

  • Neely, B., P. Comer, C. Moritz, M. Lammerts, R. Rondeau, C. Prague, G. Bell, H. Copeland, J. Humke, S. Spakeman, T. Schulz, D. Theobald, and L. Valutis. 2001. Southern Rocky Mountains: An ecoregional assessment and conservation blueprint. Prepared by The Nature Conservancy with support from the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Bureau of Land Management.

  • Osburn, W. S., Jr. 1958b. Characteristics of the Kobresia bellardii meadow stand ecosystem in the Front Range, Colorado Journal of the Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science 4(10):38-39 (Abstract).

  • Reid, M. S., K. A. Schulz, P. J. Comer, M. H. Schindel, D. R. Culver, D. A. Sarr, and M. C. Damm. 1999. An alliance level classification of vegetation of the coterminous western United States. Unpublished final report to the University of Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and National Gap Analysis Program, in fulfillment of Cooperative Agreement 1434-HQ-97-AG-01779. The Nature Conservancy, Western Conservation Science Department, Boulder, CO.

  • Schwan, H. E., and D. F. Costello. 1951. The Rocky Mountain alpine type: Range conditions, trends and land use (a preliminary report). Unpublished report prepared for USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (R2), Denver, CO. 18 pp.

  • Shiflet, T. N., editor. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Society for Range Management. Denver, CO. 152 pp.

  • Thilenius, J. F. 1975. Alpine range management in the western United States--principles, practices, and problems: The status of our knowledge. Research Paper RM-157. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO. 32 pp.

  • Willard, B. E. 1963. Phytosociology of the alpine tundra of Trail Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Unpublished dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder.

  • Zwinger, A. H., and B. E. Willard. 1996. Land above the trees: A guide to American alpine tundra. Johnson Books, Boulder, CO. 425 pp.


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