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Classification
Scientific Name: Northwestern Great Plains-Black Hills Ponderosa Pine Woodland and Savanna
Unique Identifier: CES303.650

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Summary: This system occurs throughout the Great Plains Division along areas that border the Rocky Mountain Division and into the central Great Plains. The expansion of this system into the central Great Plains may be due to fire suppression. These can be physiognomically variable, ranging from very sparse patches of trees on drier sites, to nearly closed-canopy forest stands on north slopes or in draws where available soil moisture is higher. This system occurs primarily on gentle to steep slopes along escarpments, buttes, canyons, rock outcrops or ravines and can grade into one of the Great Plains canyon systems or the surrounding prairie system. Soils typically range from well-drained loamy sands to sandy loams formed in colluvium, weathered sandstone, limestone, scoria or eolian sand. This system is primarily dominated by Pinus ponderosa but may include a sparse to relatively dense understory of Juniperus scopulorum, Thuja, or Cercocarpus with just a few scattered trees. Deciduous trees are an important component in some areas (western Dakotas, Black Hills) and are sometimes codominant with the pines, including Fraxinus pennsylvanica, Betula papyrifera, Quercus macrocarpa, Ulmus americana, Acer negundo, and Populus tremuloides. Along the Missouri Breaks in north-central Montana, woodlands dominated by Pseudotsuga menziesii are in similar ecological settings as Pinus ponderosa in the Great Plains and are included in this system. In the breaks where it occurs, Pseudotsuga menziesii has a very open canopy over grassy undergrowth, predominantly composed of Pseudoroegneria spicata, with little to no shrubs present. Important or common shrub species with ponderosa pine can include Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Mahonia repens, Yucca glauca, Symphoricarpos spp., Prunus virginiana, Juniperus communis, Juniperus horizontalis, Amelanchier alnifolia, Rhus trilobata, and Physocarpus monogynus. The herbaceous understory can range from sparse to a dense layer with species typifying the surrounding prairie system, with mixedgrass species common, such as Andropogon gerardii, Bouteloua curtipendula, Carex inops ssp. heliophila, Carex filifolia, Danthonia intermedia, Koeleria macrantha, Nassella viridula, Oryzopsis asperifolia, Pascopyrum smithii, Piptatherum micranthum, and Schizachyrium scoparium. Timber cutting and other disturbances have degraded many examples of this system within the Great Plains, however, some good examples may occur along the Pine Ridge escarpment and Pine Ridge district of the Nebraska National Forest in Nebraska.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: In this Great Plains region, what were previously called Northern Rocky Mountain Foothill Conifer Wooded Steppe (CES306.958), Southern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Woodland (CES303.648) and Southern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Savanna (CES306.826) are now included in this new system. Physiognomically, this is a variable system, with everything from sparse woodlands on breaks and scoria bluffs to dense closed-canopy stands in the Black Hills included.

Southern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Woodland (CES306.648) is now defined to occur in the montane zones of the Bighorns (USFS section M331B) and Laramie Range (USFS section M331I) and to the west and south of these mountains. It will also occur in other isolated mountain ranges of central Wyoming, but not in eastern Wyoming. It does not occur farther north than Wyoming; all Montana ponderosa pine woodlands are placed into either this Northwest Great Plains system or into Northern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Woodland and Savanna (CES306.030), as appropriate. The southern extent is hard to determine, but farther south in Colorado, there is more Juniperus, Pinus edulis, and Quercus gambelii. This system certainly occurs in New Mexico, but stands at the Black Mesa in western Oklahoma and in southeastern Colorado may also be viewed as having the southwestern affinities.

In the Pine Escarpments of Nebraska, pine communities can range from open canopies with grassy understories to more closed canopies. Included within these areas are also several rocky outcrops, which probably should be included within the system as they are often intermingled with the savanna. The more closed-canopy examples may be more similar to Southern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Woodland (CES306.648) but are included in this system for now.


Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES306.030 Northern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Woodland and Savanna
CES306.648 Southern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Woodland
CES306.649 Southern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Savanna
CES306.958 Northern Rocky Mountain Foothill Conifer Wooded Steppe


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL000188 Pinus ponderosa / Pascopyrum smithii Open Woodland
CEGL000190 Pinus ponderosa / Physocarpus monogynus Forest
CEGL000192 Pinus ponderosa / Prunus virginiana Forest
CEGL000201 Pinus ponderosa / Schizachyrium scoparium Open Woodland
CEGL000204 Pinus ponderosa / Symphoricarpos occidentalis Forest
CEGL000849 Pinus ponderosa / Carex inops ssp. heliophila Woodland
CEGL000860 Pinus ponderosa / Juniperus horizontalis Woodland
CEGL000873 Pinus ponderosa / Quercus macrocarpa Open Woodland
CEGL002123 Pinus ponderosa / Oryzopsis asperifolia Woodland



Classifiers

Land Cover Class: Forest and Woodland
Spatial Pattern: Large patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: Yes
Wetland: No
Isolated Wetland: No

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Ridge/Summit/Upper Slope  
Very Shallow Soil  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon <10 cm  
Sand Soil Texture  
Aridic  
Intermediate Disturbance Interval Periodicity/Polycyclic Disturbance
F-Patch/Medium Intensity  
Needle-Leaved Tree  
Pinus ponderosa with grassy understory  
Pinus ponderosa with shrubby understory  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Acer negundo G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Betula papyrifera G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Fraxinus pennsylvanica G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Populus tremuloides G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Prunus virginiana G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Quercus macrocarpa G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Ulmus americana G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Pinus ponderosa G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Pseudotsuga menziesii G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Symphoricarpos albus G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Cercocarpus ledifolius G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Cercocarpus montanus G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Phlox andicola G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Danthonia intermedia G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Nassella viridula G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Oryzopsis asperifolia G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Pascopyrum smithii G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Pseudoroegneria spicata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Schizachyrium scoparium G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Schizachyrium scoparium ssp. scoparium T5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: CO, KSpotentially occurs, MT, ND, NE, SD, WY
Global Range: This system is found in central and eastern Montana, the western Dakotas, eastern Wyoming (east of the Bighorns), the Black Hills, and south into the Sand Hills of Nebraska and northeastern Colorado (north of Pawnee National Grasslands to Cedar Point near Limon and south). In Montana, it occurs along the Missouri River breaks, around the Little Belts and Snowy mountains, in south-central Montana between the Bighorns and the Black Hills (along the Tongue and Powder rivers), and other areas of eastern Montana. In Wyoming, it is found around the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains, and in isolated areas of eastern Wyoming on bluffs and rock outcrops, and along "breaks." Whether this system occurs in Kansas is uncertain.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
303-Western Great Plains C: Confident or certain
306-Rocky Mountain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
25 Black Hills Confident or certain
26 Northern Great Plains Steppe Confident or certain
27 Central Shortgrass Prairie Confident or certain
33 Central Mixed-Grass Prairie Confident or certain
34 Dakota Mixed-Grass Prairie Possible

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
20 Missouri River Plateau Confident or certain
29 Wyoming Highlands Confident or certain
30 Northwestern Great Plains Confident or certain
31 Sandhills Confident or certain
33 Western Great Plains Confident or certain
39 Prairie Coteau Lands Possible
40 Northern Great Plains Possible

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 4280
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1179
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2179

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 25Jan2007
Element Description Author(s): 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
  • Bock, J. H., and C. E. Bock. 1984. Effect of fires on woody vegetation in the pine-grassland ecotone of the southern Black Hills. The American Midland Naturalist 112(1):35-42.

  • 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.

  • Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.

  • Girard, M. M. 1985. Native woodland ecology and habitat type classification of southwestern North Dakota. Ph.D. thesis, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

  • Girard, M. M., H. Goetz, and A. J. Bjugstad. 1987. Factors influencing woodlands of southwestern North Dakota. Prairie Naturalist 19(3):189-198.

  • Girard, M. M., H. Goetz, and A. J. Bjugstad. 1989. Native woodland habitat types of southwestern North Dakota. Research Paper RM-281. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO. 36 pp.

  • Hansen, P. L., and G. R. Hoffman. 1988. The vegetation of the Grand River/Cedar River, Sioux, and Ashland districts of the Custer National Forest: A habitat type classification. General Technical Report RM-157. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO. 68 pp.

  • Hoffman, G. R., and R. R. Alexander. 1987. Forest vegetation of the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota and Wyoming: A habitat type classification. Research Paper RM-276. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO. 48 pp.

  • Marriott, H. J., and D. Faber-Langendoen. 2000. The Black Hills community inventory. Volume 2: Plant community descriptions. The Nature Conservancy, Midwest Conservation Science Center and Association for Biodiversity Information, Minneapolis, MN. 326 pp.

  • Rolfsmeier, S. B., and G. Steinauer. 2010. Terrestrial ecological systems and natural communities of Nebraska (Version IV - March 9, 2010). Nebraska Natural Heritage Program, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Lincoln, NE. 228 pp.

  • Thilenius, J. F. 1972. Classification of the deer habitat in the ponderosa pine forest of the Black Hills, South Dakota. Research Paper RM-91. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO. 28 pp.


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