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Classification
Scientific Name: Rocky Mountain Alpine Fell-Field
Unique Identifier: CES306.811
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This ecological system is found discontinuously at alpine elevations throughout the Rocky Mountains, west into the mountainous areas of the Great Basin, and north into the Canadian Rockies. Small areas are represented in the west side of the Okanagan Ecoregion in the eastern Cascades. These are wind-scoured fell-fields that are free of snow in the winter, such as ridgetops and exposed saddles, exposing the plants to severe environmental stress. Soils on these windy unproductive sites are shallow, stony, low in organic matter, and poorly developed; wind deflation often results in a gravelly pavement. Most fell-field plants are cushioned or matted, frequently succulent, flat to the ground in rosettes and often densely haired and thickly cutinized. Plant cover is 15-50%, while exposed rocks make up the rest. Fell-fields are usually within or adjacent to alpine tundra dry meadows. Common species include Arenaria capillaris, Geum rossii, Kobresia myosuroides, Minuartia obtusiloba, Myosotis asiatica, Paronychia pulvinata, Phlox pulvinata, Sibbaldia procumbens, Silene acaulis, Trifolium dasyphyllum, and Trifolium parryi.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: Alpine fell-fields in the Cascades occur at a very small-scale spatial pattern not mappable (recognizable) at landscape levels. These small-scale fell-fields are conceptually included here.

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL001134 Rubus idaeus Scree Shrubland
CEGL001919 Minuartia obtusiloba Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001933 Sibbaldia procumbens - Polygonum bistortoides Wet Meadow
CEGL001934 Silene acaulis Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001935 Trifolium dasyphyllum Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001936 Trifolium parryi Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001965 Geum rossii - Minuartia obtusiloba Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001976 Paronychia pulvinata - Silene acaulis Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001980 Phlox pulvinata - Trifolium dasyphyllum Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001982 Potentilla sierrae-blancae Alpine Fell-field
CEGL005833 Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda / Artemisia michauxiana Alpine Shrub Meadow
CEGL005855 Arenaria capillaris / Polytrichum piliferum Alpine Snowbed
CEGL005863 Carex albonigra - Myosotis asiatica Alpine Fell-field
CEGL005865 Carex paysonis - Sibbaldia procumbens Alpine Snowbed
CEGL005872 Kobresia myosuroides - Euphrasia disjuncta Alpine Turf



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
Herbaceous  
Ridge/Summit/Upper Slope  
Oligotrophic Soil  
Very Shallow Soil  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon <10 cm  
Very Short Disturbance Interval  
W-Patch/High Intensity  
Cushion plants  
Alpine Slopes  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Patterned ground (undifferentiated)  
Saddle  
Temperate Temperate Continental
Glaciated  
Ustic  
W-Landscape/Medium Intensity  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Aneides hardii
  (Sacramento Mountain Salamander)
G3  
Paronychia pulvinata
  (Rocky Mountain Nailwort)
G3?  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Eremogone capillaris G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Geum rossii G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Ivesia gordonii G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Minuartia obtusiloba G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Paronychia pulvinata G3 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)    
 
 
Sedum lanceolatum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Sibbaldia procumbens G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Silene acaulis G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Trifolium dasyphyllum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Trifolium parryi G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Festuca brachyphylla ssp. coloradensis TNR Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Phleum alpinum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Poa secunda 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
Aneides hardii
  (Sacramento Mountain Salamander)
G3      
Lagopus leucura
  (White-tailed Ptarmigan)
G5      
Phrynosoma hernandesi
  (Short-horned Lizard)
G5      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AKpotentially occurs, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: AB, BC
Global Range: This system is found discontinuously at alpine elevations throughout the Rocky Mountains, west into the mountainous areas of the Great Basin. Outlier sites occur in the northeastern Cascades and on Mount Rainier in Washington.

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
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 Never was there
9 Blue Mountain Region Predicted or probable
10 Northwestern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Possible
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
17 Eastern Great Basin Confident or certain
19 Northern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
20 Missouri River Plateau Possible
21 Middle Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
23 Colorado Plateau Predicted or probable
24 Navajo Plateau Predicted or probable
25 Rio Grande Basin Confident or certain
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 7116
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1143
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2143

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 07Sep2005
Element Description Author(s): R. Crawford

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


References
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hamann, M. J. 1972. Vegetation of alpine and subalpine meadows of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Unpublished thesis, Washington State University, Pullman. 120 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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


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