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Classification
Scientific Name: Columbia Plateau Steppe and Grassland
Unique Identifier: CES304.083
Classification Confidence: 3 - Weak

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Summary: This system occurs throughout much of the Columbia Plateau. It is a bunchgrass-dominated grassland or steppe that is similar floristically to big sagebrush-dominated steppe, but is defined by a more frequent fire regime and the absence or low cover of shrubs over large areas. These are large, extensive grasslands, not grass-dominated patches within the sagebrush shrub-steppe ecological system. Soils are variable, ranging from relatively deep, fine-textured often with coarse fragments, and non-saline often with a microphytic crust, to stony volcanic-derived clays to alluvial sands. This grassland is dominated by perennial bunchgrasses and forbs (>25% cover), sometimes with a sparse (<10% cover) shrub layer. Associated graminoids include Achnatherum hymenoides, Elymus elymoides, Elymus lanceolatus ssp. lanceolatus, Hesperostipa comata, Festuca idahoensis, Koeleria macrantha, Poa secunda, and Pseudoroegneria spicata. Common forbs are Phlox hoodii, Arenaria spp., and Astragalus spp. Shrubs such as Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, Ericameria nauseosa, Tetradymia spp., or Artemisia spp. are often present in disturbed stands. Areas with deeper soils are rare because of conversion to other land uses. The rapid fire-return regime of this ecological system maintains a grassland structure by retarding shrub invasion, and landscape isolation and fragmentation limit seed dispersal of native shrub species. Fire frequency is presumed to be less than 20 years. Through isolation from a seed source, combined with repeated burning, these are "permanently" (more than 50 years) converted to grassland.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: These grasslands are similar floristically to Inter-Mountain Basins Big Sagebrush Steppe (CES304.778) but are defined by a more frequent fire regime and the absence or low cover of shrubs over large areas, occasionally entire landforms. How this differs from Columbia Basin Palouse Prairie (CES304.792) is unclear. This system is more widespread (occurring outside the Palouse region) and is more xeric, occurring on moderate to shallow soils, but shares many of the species.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES304.778 Inter-Mountain Basins Big Sagebrush Steppe
CES304.787 Inter-Mountain Basins Semi-Desert Grassland
CES304.792 Columbia Basin Palouse Prairie



Classifiers

Land Cover Class: Steppe/Savanna
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
Sideslope  
Very Shallow Soil  
Landslide  
Xeromorphic Shrub  
Graminoid  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Allium constrictum
  (Constricted Douglas' Onion)
G2G3  
Astragalus collinus var. laurentii
  (Laurent's Milkvetch)
G5T1  
Astragalus columbianus
  (Columbian Milkvetch)
G2G3  
Astragalus misellus var. pauper
  (Pauper Milkvetch)
G3T3  
Astragalus sinuatus
  (Whited's Milkvetch)
G1  
Astragalus tyghensis
  (Tygh Valley Milkvetch)
G2  
Calochortus macrocarpus var. maculosus
  (Green-band Mariposa Lily)
G5T2  
Centrocercus urophasianus
  (Greater Sage-Grouse)
G3G4  
Crepis bakeri ssp. idahoensis
  (Idaho Hawk's-beard)
G4T2  
Erigeron engelmannii var. davisii
  (Davis' Fleabane)
G5T3  
Erigeron piperianus
  (Piper's Daisy)
G3  
Lepidium papilliferum
  (Slick-spot Pepper-grass)
G2 LT: Listed threatened
Lomatium laevigatum
  (Smooth Desert-parsley)
G3  
Lomatium rollinsii
  (Rollins' Lomatium)
G3  
Orthocarpus bracteosus
  (Rosy Owl's-clover)
G3?  
Penstemon deustus var. variabilis
  (Hot-rock Penstemon)
G5T2  
Phacelia lenta
  (Sticky Phacelia)
G2?  
Pyrrocoma liatriformis
  (Palouse Goldenweed)
G2  
Ranunculus glaberrimus var. reconditus
  (Obscure Buttercup)
G5T2  
Ribes cereum var. colubrinum
  (Squaw Currant)
G5T3  
Tauschia hooveri
  (Hoover's Tauschia)
G2G3  
Trifolium thompsonii
  (Thompson's Clover)
G3  
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
%
Ribes cereum var. colubrinum T3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Ribes oxyacanthoides ssp. irriguum T4 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Pediocactus nigrispinus G4 Succulent shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Pediocactus simpsonii G5 Succulent shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Allium constrictum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus arthurii G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus collinus var. laurentii T1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus columbianus G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus conjunctus G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus cusickii var. cusickii T4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus diaphanus G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus misellus var. pauper T3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus sinuatus G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus tyghensis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Balsamorhiza sagittata G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Calochortus macrocarpus var. maculosus T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Camassia cusickii G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Collinsia sparsiflora var. bruceae T4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Crepis bakeri ssp. idahoensis T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Cryptantha flaccida G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Cuscuta denticulata G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Erigeron engelmannii var. davisii T3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Erigeron piperianus G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Lepidium papilliferum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Linanthus bolanderi G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Lomatium laevigatum G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Lomatium rollinsii G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Oenothera caespitosa ssp. marginata T4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Orthocarpus bracteosus G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Penstemon deustus var. variabilis T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Phacelia lenta G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Phlox hoodii G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Pyrrocoma liatriformis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Ranunculus glaberrimus var. reconditus T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Tauschia hooveri G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Trifolium thompsonii G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Achnatherum thurberianum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Bromus tectorum GNR Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Elymus elymoides G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Lipocarpha aristulata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Poa secunda G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Pseudoroegneria spicata 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
Athene cunicularia hypugaea
  (Western Burrowing Owl)
G4T4      
Brachylagus idahoensis
  (Pygmy Rabbit)
G4      
Centrocercus urophasianus
  (Greater Sage-Grouse)
G3G4      
Crotaphytus bicinctores
  (Great Basin Collared Lizard)
G5      
Lepus townsendii
  (White-tailed Jackrabbit)
G5      
Numenius americanus
  (Long-billed Curlew)
G5      
Oreoscoptes montanus
  (Sage Thrasher)
G4      
Perognathus mollipilosus
  (Great Basin Pocket Mouse)
G5      
Spizella breweri
  (Brewer's Sparrow)
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: CApotentially occurs, ID, MTpotentially occurs, NV, OR, UTpotentially occurs, WA, WYpotentially occurs
Global Range: This system occurs throughout the Columbia Plateau region, from north-central Idaho, south and west into Washington, Oregon, southern Idaho, and northern Nevada. Whether it also occurs in northeastern California, in the western ranges of Wyoming, or the central Wyoming Basins is unclear.

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 Predicted or probable
11 Great Basin 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
7 Cascade Mountain Range Possible
8 Grande Coulee Basin of the Columbia Plateau Confident or certain
9 Blue Mountain Region Confident or certain
10 Northwestern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Predicted or probable
17 Eastern Great Basin Possible
18 Snake River Plain Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 5452
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1123
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2123

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 26Jan2016
Element Description Author(s): R. Crawford, M.S. Reid 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).


References
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  • Belnap, J., and O. L. Lange, editors. 2003. Biological soil crusts: Structure, function, and management. Second edition. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

  • Burkhardt, J. W. 1996. Herbivory in the Intermountain West: An overview of evolutionary history, historic cultural impacts and lessons from the past. Station Bulletin 58. Idaho Forest, Wildlife and Range Experiment Station, University of Idaho, Moscow. 35 pp.

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  • Daubenmire, R. F. 1970. Steppe vegetation of Washington. Washington State University Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin No. 62. 131 pp.

  • Drut, M. S., W. H. Pyle, and J. A. Crawford. 1994. Diets and food selection of sage grouse chicks in Oregon. Journal of Range Management 47:90-93.

  • Ersch, E. 2009. Plant community characteristics on insect abundance: Implications on sage-grouse brood rearing habitats. Master's thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. 109 pp.

  • Gregg, M. A., and J. A. Crawford. 2009. Survival of greater sage-grouse chicks and broods in the northern Great Basin. The Journal of Wildlife Management 73:904-913.

  • Howard, J. L. 1999. Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis. In: Fire Effects Information System [Online]. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). [http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/] (accessed 13 July 2007).

  • Johnson, C. G., Jr., and D. K. Swanson. 2005. Bunchgrass plant communities of the Blue and Ochoco Mountains: A guide for managers. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-641. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR. 119 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).

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