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Scientific Name: Rocky Mountain Alpine-Montane Wet Meadow
Unique Identifier: CES306.812
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate
Image 22111
© Denise Culver
Summary: These are high-elevation communities found throughout the Rocky Mountains and Intermountain regions, dominated by herbaceous species found on wetter sites with very low-velocity surface and subsurface flows. They range in elevation from montane to alpine (1000-3600 m). These types occur as large meadows in montane or subalpine valleys, as narrow strips bordering ponds, lakes, and streams, and along toeslope seeps. They are typically found on flat areas or gentle slopes, but may also occur on sub-irrigated sites with slopes up to 10%. In alpine regions, sites typically are small depressions located below late-melting snow patches or on snowbeds. Soils of this system may be mineral or organic. In either case, soils show typical hydric soil characteristics, including high organic content and/or low chroma and redoximorphic features. This system often occurs as a mosaic of several plant associations, often dominated by graminoids, including Calamagrostis stricta, Caltha leptosepala, Cardamine cordifolia, Carex illota, Carex microptera, Carex nigricans, Carex scopulorum, Carex utriculata, Carex vernacula, Deschampsia caespitosa, Eleocharis quinqueflora, Juncus drummondii, Phippsia algida, Rorippa alpina, Senecio triangularis, Trifolium parryi, and Trollius laxus. Often alpine dwarf-shrublands, especially those dominated by Salix, are immediately adjacent to the wet meadows. Wet meadows are tightly associated with snowmelt and typically not subjected to high disturbance events such as flooding.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: Similar systems to this one include Temperate Pacific Subalpine-Montane Wet Meadow (CES200.998) and Western North American Boreal Wet Meadow (CES105.124). Rocky Mountain Alpine-Montane Wet Meadow (CES306.812) occurs to the east of the coastal and Sierran mountains, in the semi-arid interior regions of western North America. Boreal wet meadow systems occur farther north and east in boreal regions where the climatic regime is generally colder than that of the Rockies or Pacific Northwest regions. Floristics of these three systems are somewhat similar, but there are differences related to biogeographic affinities of the species composing the vegetation.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES105.124 Western North American Boreal Wet Meadow
CES306.829 Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Mesic Meadow

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL000219 Glyceria striata Wet Meadow
CEGL001079 Betula glandulosa / Carex utriculata Wet Shrubland
CEGL001105 Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda Wet Shrubland
CEGL001106 Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda / Carex spp. Wet Shrubland
CEGL001107 Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda / Deschampsia caespitosa Wet Shrubland
CEGL001559 Calamagrostis canadensis Western Wet Meadow
CEGL001560 Calamagrostis canadensis - Carex scopulorum - Mertensia ciliata Wet Meadow
CEGL001562 Carex utriculata Wet Meadow
CEGL001569 Glyceria borealis Wet Meadow
CEGL001599 Deschampsia caespitosa Wet Meadow
CEGL001769 Carex saxatilis Fen
CEGL001792 Carex microptera Wet Meadow
CEGL001793 Carex straminiformis Grassland
CEGL001801 Carex aperta Lowland Wet Meadow
CEGL001802 Carex aquatilis Wet Meadow
CEGL001803 Carex aquatilis - Carex utriculata Wet Meadow
CEGL001809 Carex pellita Wet Meadow
CEGL001813 Carex nebrascensis Wet Meadow
CEGL001816 Carex nigricans Wet Meadow
CEGL001818 Carex nigricans - Juncus drummondii Wet Meadow
CEGL001822 Carex scopulorum Wet Meadow
CEGL001823 Carex scopulorum - Caltha leptosepala Wet Meadow
CEGL001825 Carex simulata Fen
CEGL001826 Carex aquatilis var. dives Fen
CEGL001832 Eleocharis acicularis Marsh
CEGL001833 Eleocharis palustris Marsh
CEGL001834 Eleocharis palustris - Distichlis spicata Marsh
CEGL001835 Eleocharis palustris - Juncus balticus Marsh
CEGL001836 Eleocharis quinqueflora Fen
CEGL001837 Eleocharis quinqueflora - Carex scopulorum Wet Meadow
CEGL001838 Juncus balticus Wet Meadow
CEGL001842 Trichophorum caespitosum - Carex livida Fen
CEGL001860 Carex pyrenaica Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001865 Carex scirpoidea ssp. pseudoscirpoidea Alpine Meadow
CEGL001869 Carex vernacula - Poa fendleriana Wet Meadow
CEGL001871 Carex lachenalii Wet Meadow
CEGL001872 Carex capillaris - Polygonum viviparum Wet Meadow
CEGL001874 Carex duriuscula Grassland
CEGL001876 Carex illota Wet Meadow
CEGL001877 Carex microglochin Fen
CEGL001884 Deschampsia caespitosa - Geum rossii Wet Meadow
CEGL001887 Deschampsia caespitosa - Mertensia ciliata Wet Meadow
CEGL001904 Juncus drummondii - Antennaria lanata Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001905 Juncus drummondii - Carex spp. Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001906 Juncus parryi - Erigeron ursinus Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001921 Phleum alpinum - Carex aquatilis Wet Meadow
CEGL001922 Phleum alpinum - Carex microptera Wet Meadow
CEGL001926 Poa glauca Wet Meadow
CEGL001931 Rhodiola rhodantha Wet Meadow
CEGL001940 Heracleum maximum - Rudbeckia occidentalis Wet Meadow
CEGL001954 Caltha leptosepala Wet Meadow
CEGL001956 Caltha leptosepala - Polygonum bistortoides Wet Meadow
CEGL001957 Caltha leptosepala - Rhodiola rhodantha Wet Meadow
CEGL001958 Cardamine cordifolia - Caltha leptosepala Wet Meadow
CEGL001967 Geum rossii - Polygonum bistortoides Alpine Turf
CEGL001969 Geum rossii - Sibbaldia procumbens Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001983 Primula parryi Wet Meadow
CEGL001985 Saxifraga odontoloma Wet Meadow
CEGL001987 Senecio triangularis Wet Meadow
CEGL001988 Senecio triangularis - Mimulus guttatus Wet Meadow
CEGL001989 Senecio triangularis - Veratrum californicum Wet Meadow
CEGL001998 Valeriana sitchensis - Veratrum viride Meadow
CEGL002009 Rorippa alpina Wet Meadow
CEGL002241 Equisetum laevigatum Wet Meadow
CEGL002653 Betula glandulosa / Mesic Forbs - Mesic Graminoids Wet Shrubland
CEGL002660 Carex praegracilis Wet Meadow
CEGL002661 Carex vesicaria Wet Meadow
CEGL002662 Cardamine cordifolia - Mertensia ciliata - Senecio triangularis Wet Meadow
CEGL002746 Equisetum fluviatile Marsh
CEGL002890 Carex nebrascensis Slope Wet Meadow
CEGL002892 Phippsia algida Wet Meadow
CEGL003314 Equisetum arvense Wet Meadow
CEGL003427 Carex amplifolia Wet Meadow
CEGL003428 Eleocharis rostellata Marsh
CEGL003429 Glyceria grandis Wet Meadow
CEGL003440 Camassia cusickii Wet Meadow
CEGL005824 Carex nigricans - Sibbaldia procumbens Wet Meadow
CEGL005857 Heracleum maximum Wet Meadow
CEGL005858 Trollius laxus - Parnassia fimbriata Wet Meadow
CEGL005867 Carex spectabilis - Arnica x diversifolia Alpine Meadow
CEGL005871 Juncus parryi / Sibbaldia procumbens Alpine Snowbed
CEGL005887 Betula glandulosa / Carex spp. Wet Shrubland


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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Alpine/AltiAndino Alpine/AltiAndino
Montane Upper Montane
Seepage-Fed Sloping Mineral
Depressional Lakeshore
Depressional Pond

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Montane Montane
Temperate Temperate Continental
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon >10 cm  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon <10 cm  
Mesotrophic Water  
Saturated Soil  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Delphinium viridescens
  (Wenatchee Larkspur)
Ptilagrostis kingii
  (King's Mountain-ricegrass)
Rana pretiosa
  (Oregon Spotted Frog)
G2 LT: Listed threatened
Sidalcea oregana var. calva
  (Oregon Checker-mallow)
G5T1 LE: Listed endangered
Speyeria nokomis
  (Nokomis Fritillary)

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Caltha leptosepala G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
Cardamine cordifolia G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Delphinium viridescens G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
Rorippa alpina G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Senecio triangularis G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Sidalcea oregana var. calva T1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
Trifolium parryi G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Trollius laxus G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Calamagrostis stricta G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Carex illota G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Carex microptera G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Carex nigricans G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Carex scopulorum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Carex utriculata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Carex vernacula G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Deschampsia caespitosa G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Eleocharis quinqueflora G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Juncus drummondii G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Phippsia algida G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
Lithobates sylvaticus
  (Wood Frog)
Pseudacris maculata
  (Boreal Chorus Frog)
Rana pretiosa
  (Oregon Spotted Frog)
G2 LT: Listed threatened    
Speyeria nokomis
  (Nokomis Fritillary)

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: AB, BC
Global Range: This system is found throughout the Rocky Mountains and Intermountain West regions, ranging in elevation from montane to alpine (1000-3600 m).

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
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
11 Great Basin Confident or certain
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
22 Apache Highlands Predicted or probable
25 Black Hills 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
9 Blue Mountain Region Confident or certain
10 Northwestern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Predicted or probable
13 Death Valley Basin Confident or certain
15 Mogollon Rim Possible
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
17 Eastern Great Basin Predicted or probable
18 Snake River Plain Predicted or probable
19 Northern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
21 Middle Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
22 Wyoming Basin Predicted or probable
23 Colorado Plateau Confident or certain
24 Navajo Plateau Predicted or probable
25 Rio Grande Basin Confident or certain
26 Chihuahuan Desert Never was there
27 Great Plains Tablelands Confident or certain
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
29 Wyoming Highlands Predicted or probable

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9217

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 14Dec2004
Element Description Author(s): NatureServe Western Ecology Team

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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  • 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.

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  • 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. 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.

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  • Kovalchik, B. L. 1993. Riparian plant associations on the national forests of eastern Washington - Draft version 1. USDA Forest Service, Colville National Forest, Colville, WA. 203 pp.

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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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  • Nachlinger, J., K. Sochi, P. Comer, G. Kittel, and D. Dorfman. 2001. Great Basin: An ecoregion-based conservation blueprint. The Nature Conservancy, Reno, NV. 160 pp. plus appendices.

  • 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.

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

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