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Classification
Scientific Name: Inter-Mountain Basins Semi-Desert Grassland
Unique Identifier: CES304.787
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This widespread ecological system includes the driest grasslands throughout the intermountain western U.S. It occurs on xeric sites over an elevation range of approximately 1450 to 2320 m (4750-7610 feet) on a variety of landforms, including swales, playas, mesas, alluvial flats, and plains. This system may constitute the matrix over large areas of intermountain basins, and also may occur as large patches in mosaics with shrubland systems dominated by Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata, Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis, Atriplex spp., Coleogyne spp., Ephedra spp., Gutierrezia sarothrae, or Krascheninnikovia lanata. Grasslands in areas of higher precipitation, at higher elevation, typically belong to other systems. Substrates are often well-drained sandy or loam soils derived from sedimentary parent materials but are quite variable and may include fine-textured soils derived from igneous and metamorphic rocks. The dominant perennial bunchgrasses and shrubs within this system are all drought-resistant plants. Dominant or codominant species are Achnatherum hymenoides, Aristida spp., Bouteloua gracilis, Hesperostipa comata, Muhlenbergia spp., Pleuraphis jamesii, or Sporobolus spp. Scattered shrubs and dwarf-shrubs often are present, especially Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata, Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis, Atriplex spp., Coleogyne spp., Ephedra spp., Ericameria spp., Gutierrezia sarothrae, and Krascheninnikovia lanata. This system is typically composed of cool-season grasses in the western portion of its range where winter precipitation dominates, and a mix of cool- and warm-season grasses where precipitation occurs during both winter and summer seasons (Colorado Plateau). Grasslands in the basins of south-central and southwestern Wyoming, dominated by Pseudoroegneria spicata and Poa secunda and containing cushion-form forbs and other species typical of dry basins, are included in this system.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: In the relatively high-elevation basins of Wyoming and south-central Montana, grass vegetation dominated or codominated by Pseudoroegneria spicata and Poa secunda seems to be transitional between more typical Inter-Mountain Basins Semi-Desert Grassland (CES304.787) as found farther west and south in the intermountain region and Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane, Foothill and Valley Grassland (CES306.040) common on the foothills of the surrounding mountains. That grass vegetation is placed into this semi-desert grassland system, instead of into the foothill grassland system, for two reasons. The first is composition of the vegetation: Pseudoroegneria- and Poa-rich vegetation often contains shrubs (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis, Krascheninnikovia lanata), other grasses (Achnatherum hymenoides, Hesperostipa comata), and cushion-form forbs common in drier vegetation of the same basins, while the species common in the foothills, especially Festuca idahoensis and Leucopoa kingii, are absent. The second is the setting: patches of the Pseudoroegneria- and Poa-rich vegetation occur in a mosaic with other basins systems, especially Inter-Mountain Basins Big Sagebrush Steppe (CES304.778), with which it often merges.

In the Columbia Plateau, this semi-desert ecological system does not include Pseudoroegneria spicata-dominated or -codominated associations such as Pseudoroegneria spicata - Achnatherum hymenoides Grassland (CEGL001674) or Pseudoroegneria spicata - Poa secunda Grassland (CEGL001677). These associations are included in the similar Columbia Plateau Steppe and Grassland (CES304.083). Additionally, Poa cusickii Moist Meadow (CEGL001655) is restricted to relatively mesic sites there and does not occur in this semi-desert system as it occurs in the Columbia Plateau, but may be found in this system in Wyoming.


Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES304.083 Columbia Plateau Steppe and Grassland
CES306.040 Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane, Foothill and Valley Grassland


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL001514 Sporobolus cryptandrus Shrub Grassland
CEGL001515 Aristida purpurea var. longiseta - Sporobolus cryptandrus Grassland
CEGL001516 Sporobolus cryptandrus - Poa secunda Grassland
CEGL001589 Aristida purpurea var. longiseta - Pseudoroegneria spicata - Sporobolus cryptandrus Grassland
CEGL001652 Achnatherum hymenoides - Sporobolus contractus Grassland
CEGL001655 Poa cusickii Moist Meadow
CEGL001657 Poa secunda Moist Meadow
CEGL001660 Pseudoroegneria spicata Grassland
CEGL001661 Pseudoroegneria spicata ssp. inermis Grassland
CEGL001674 Pseudoroegneria spicata - Achnatherum hymenoides Grassland
CEGL001677 Pseudoroegneria spicata - Poa secunda Grassland
CEGL001679 Pseudoroegneria spicata - Hesperostipa comata Grassland
CEGL001685 Sporobolus airoides Southern Plains Wet Meadow
CEGL001686 Sporobolus airoides - Bouteloua gracilis Grassland
CEGL001688 Sporobolus airoides Monotype Wet Meadow
CEGL001703 Hesperostipa comata - Achnatherum hymenoides Grassland
CEGL001705 Hesperostipa comata Great Basin Grassland
CEGL001707 Achnatherum nelsonii - Koeleria macrantha Grassland
CEGL001708 Hesperostipa neomexicana Grassland
CEGL001733 Gutierrezia sarothrae - Krascheninnikovia lanata - Atriplex canescens / Bouteloua eriopoda Shrub Grassland
CEGL001751 Bouteloua eriopoda - Pleuraphis jamesii Grassland
CEGL001752 Bouteloua eriopoda Semi-Desert Grassland
CEGL001753 Bouteloua eriopoda - Hesperostipa neomexicana Grassland
CEGL001754 Bouteloua gracilis - Bouteloua curtipendula Grassland
CEGL001755 Bouteloua gracilis - Bouteloua hirsuta Grassland
CEGL001759 Bouteloua gracilis - Pleuraphis jamesii Grassland
CEGL001760 Bouteloua gracilis Grassland
CEGL001761 Bouteloua gracilis - Sporobolus cryptandrus Grassland
CEGL001765 Bouteloua hirsuta - Bouteloua radicosa Grassland
CEGL001775 Atriplex obovata / Sporobolus airoides - Pleuraphis jamesii Shrub Grassland
CEGL001777 Pleuraphis jamesii Grassland
CEGL001779 Muhlenbergia asperifolia Wet Meadow
CEGL001781 Aristida purpurea var. longiseta - Poa secunda Grassland
CEGL002085 Erodium cicutarium Ruderal Annual Grassland
CEGL002343 Achnatherum hymenoides Colorado Plateau Grassland
CEGL002363 Muhlenbergia pungens Grassland
CEGL002588 Elymus lanceolatus Grassland
CEGL002691 Sporobolus cryptandrus Great Basin Grassland
CEGL002734 Achnatherum lettermanii - Oxytropis oreophila Grassland
CEGL002755 Poa secunda - Muhlenbergia richardsonis Moist Meadow
CEGL002787 Bouteloua eriopoda Coconino Plateau Shrub Grassland
CEGL002932 Bouteloua gracilis - Hesperostipa comata Grassland
CEGL002935 Thinopyrum intermedium Ruderal Grassland
CEGL002997 Hesperostipa comata - (Bouteloua eriopoda, Pleuraphis jamesii) Grassland
CEGL003019 Bromus tectorum Ruderal Grassland
CEGL003051 Pleuraphis rigida Grassland
CEGL003112 Achnatherum speciosum Grassland
CEGL003495 Ericameria nauseosa / Bouteloua gracilis Shrub Grassland
CEGL005264 Bromus inermis - (Pascopyrum smithii) Ruderal Grassland
CEGL005266 Agropyron cristatum - (Pascopyrum smithii, Hesperostipa comata) Ruderal Grassland
CEGL005366 Sphaeralcea (coccinea, parvifolia) Grassland
CEGL005389 Bouteloua gracilis - Muhlenbergia torreyi - Aristida purpurea Grassland
CEGL005653 Pascopyrum smithii Central Rocky Mountain Grassland
CEGL005800 Aristida purpurea Grassland
CEGL006755 Scleropogon brevifolius - Pleuraphis jamesii - Bouteloua eriopoda Grassland



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
Lowland Foothill
Lowland Lowland
Herbaceous  
Temperate Temperate Xeric
Alkaline Soil  
Aridic  
Graminoid  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Intermediate Disturbance Interval  
F-Landscape/Medium Intensity  
G-Landscape/Low Intensity  
Forb  
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
Antennaria arcuata
  (Meadow Pussytoes)
G3  
Asclepias uncialis ssp. ruthiae
  (Ruth's Milkweed)
G3G4T3?  
Astragalus columbianus
  (Columbian Milkvetch)
G2G3  
Astragalus diversifolius
  (Mesic Milkvetch)
G2  
Astragalus lemmonii
  (Lemmon's Milkvetch)
G2  
Centrocercus minimus
  (Gunnison Sage-Grouse)
G2G3 LT: Listed threatened
Centrocercus urophasianus
  (Greater Sage-Grouse)
G3G4  
Charadrius montanus
  (Mountain Plover)
G3  
Cryptantha leucophaea
  (Gray Cryptantha)
G2G3  
Cryptantha subcapitata
  (Owl Creek Miner's Candle)
G2  
Cymopterus duchesnensis
  (Uinta Basin Spring-parsley)
G3  
Ivesia aperta var. aperta
  (Sierra Valley Ivesia)
G2T2  
Mustela nigripes
  (Black-footed Ferret)
G1 LE, XN: Listed endangered, nonessential experimental population
Oreohelix variabilis
  (Dalles Mountainsnail)
G2Q  
Pseudocopaeodes eunus obscurus
  (Carson Wandering Skipper)
G3T1 LE: Listed endangered
Townsendia microcephala
  (Cedar Mountain Easter-daisy)
G1  
Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus
  (Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse)
G5T3  
Urocitellus washingtoni
  (Washington Ground Squirrel)
G2  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata T4 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis T5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Gutierrezia sarothrae G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Krascheninnikovia lanata G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Antennaria arcuata G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Asclepias uncialis ssp. ruthiae T3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus columbianus G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus diversifolius G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus geyeri G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus lemmonii G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Chaenactis stevioides G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Cryptantha leucophaea G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Cryptantha subcapitata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Cymopterus duchesnensis G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Ivesia aperta var. aperta T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Ivesia kingii G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Townsendia microcephala G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Achnatherum hymenoides G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Aristida purpurea G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Bouteloua curtipendula G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Bouteloua gracilis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Hesperostipa comata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Pleuraphis jamesii G5 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Poa secunda G5 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Pseudoroegneria spicata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Sporobolus airoides 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
Ammodramus savannarum
  (Grasshopper Sparrow)
G5      
Anaxyrus boreas
  (Western Toad)
G4      
Antigone canadensis tabida
  (Greater Sandhill Crane)
G5T5      
Athene cunicularia hypugaea
  (Western Burrowing Owl)
G4T4      
Athene cunicularia
  (Burrowing Owl)
G4      
Bubulcus ibis
  (Cattle Egret)
G5      
Centrocercus minimus
  (Gunnison Sage-Grouse)
G2G3 LT: Listed threatened    
Centrocercus urophasianus
  (Greater Sage-Grouse)
G3G4      
Charadrius montanus
  (Mountain Plover)
G3      
Crotalus oreganus
  (Western Rattlesnake)
G5      
Cynomys gunnisoni
  (Gunnison's Prairie Dog)
G5      
Cynomys leucurus
  (White-tailed Prairie Dog)
G4      
Dipodomys ordii
  (Ord's Kangaroo Rat)
G5      
Lanius ludovicianus
  (Loggerhead Shrike)
G4      
Mustela nigripes
  (Black-footed Ferret)
G1 LE, XN: Listed endangered, nonessential experimental population    
Numenius americanus
  (Long-billed Curlew)
G5      
Oreohelix variabilis
  (Dalles Mountainsnail)
G2Q      
Perognathus mollipilosus
  (Great Basin Pocket Mouse)
G5      
Phrynosoma platyrhinos
  (Desert Horned Lizard)
G5      
Pituophis catenifer
  (Gophersnake)
G5      
Pooecetes gramineus
  (Vesper Sparrow)
G5      
Pseudocopaeodes eunus obscurus
  (Carson Wandering Skipper)
G3T1 LE: Listed endangered    
Sceloporus graciosus
  (Sagebrush Lizard)
G5      
Sonora semiannulata
  (Groundsnake)
G5      
Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus
  (Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse)
G5T3      
Urocitellus washingtoni
  (Washington Ground Squirrel)
G2      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AZ, CA, CO, ID, MTpotentially occurs, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY
Global Range: This system occurs throughout the intermountain western U.S. on dry plains and mesas, at approximately 1450 to 2320 m (4750-7610 feet) elevation. In the Bighorn Basin of north-central Wyoming, there may be some desert grasslands, but this is uncertain.

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
10 Wyoming Basins Confident or certain
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
4 Modoc Plateau and East Cascades Confident or certain
6 Columbia Plateau 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
6 Sierra Nevada Mountain Range Predicted or probable
7 Cascade Mountain Range Confident or certain
8 Grande Coulee Basin of the Columbia Plateau Confident or certain
9 Blue Mountain Region Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Confident or certain
13 Death Valley Basin Confident or certain
14 Sonoran Desert Predicted or probable
15 Mogollon Rim Confident or certain
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
17 Eastern Great Basin Confident or certain
18 Snake River Plain Confident or certain
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 Possible
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
29 Wyoming Highlands Possible

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 7107
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1135
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2135

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 20Nov2015
Element Description Author(s): G.P. Jones and 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).


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