Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Southern Vancouverian Lowland Grassland & Shrubland Macrogroup
Colloquial Name: Southern Vancouverian Lowland Grassland & Shrubland
Hierarchy Level: Macrogroup
Type Concept: This macrogroup contains the vegetation of grasslands with some dwarf-shrubs. Dominant grasses include Festuca rubra, Festuca idahoensis ssp. roemeri, or Danthonia californica. Dwarf-shrub species may include Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Arctostaphylos columbiana, Arctostaphylos nevadensis, Baccharis pilularis, Gaultheria shallon, Juniperus communis, Lupinus spp., Rubus spp., Rosa nutkana, Symphoricarpos albus, and Vaccinium ovatum. It occurs along the Pacific Coast on terraces and ridgeline balds in the Coast Ranges, the Klamath Mountains and at low elevations on the lee side of the coastal mountains in the northern part of the range, from Vancouver Island down the coast to San Francisco. Fires, both lightning-ignited and those ignited by Native Americans, undoubtedly affected these sites. Because of this fire history, the extent of this macrogroup has declined locally through tree invasion, as areas formerly maintained as herbaceous by burning have filled in with trees.
Diagnostic Characteristics: Grasslands in coastal balds dominated by native species such as bunchgrasses Festuca rubra, Festuca idahoensis ssp. roemeri, or Danthonia californica. Shrubs and dwarf-shrubs may also occur as small patches intermixed in a matrix of herbaceous vegetation.
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features: Open areas in a matrix of shrubland or forested slopes due to shallow soils or steep rocky areas dominated by Festuca rubra, Festuca idahoensis ssp. roemeri, or Danthonia californica.
Classification Comments: Stands with Calamagrostis nutkaensis, Danthonia californica, and Deschampsia cespitosa vary in moisture and habitat from dry to wet and slopes to swales, and associated species can vary. With overlapping floristics and ecology existing between this macrogroup (M050) and Vancouverian Lowland Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland Macrogroup (M073), further classification analysis and review are needed.
Similar NVC Types:
M044 Californian Coastal Scrub, note:
M073 Vancouverian Lowland Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland, note:
Physiognomy and Structure: Low-statured (<1.5 m) grassy meadows and "balds," often openings in otherwise shrubby forested slopes. Shrub and dwarf-shrubs may be imbedded in the grassland.
Floristics: Grasslands are the most prevalent vegetation cover. Dwarf-shrubs occur commonly, especially in mountains or foothills, as very small patches for the most part, usually in a matrix of herbaceous vegetation, most often near edges. Bunchgrasses often dominate and include Festuca rubra, Festuca idahoensis ssp. roemeri (= Festuca roemeri), or Danthonia californica. Other grasses that may be present include Achnatherum lemmonii, Agrostis spp., Aira caryophyllea, Bromus carinatus, Calamagrostis nutkaensis, Deschampsia cespitosa, Festuca idahoensis ssp. idahoensis, Holcus lanatus, Koeleria macrantha, or Trisetum canescens. Shrub and dwarf-shrub species imbedded in the herbaceous cover include Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Arctostaphylos columbiana, Arctostaphylos nevadensis, Baccharis pilularis, Gaultheria shallon, Juniperus communis, Rosa nutkana, Symphoricarpos albus, and Vaccinium ovatum. Occasionally scattered stunted trees such as Picea sitchensis, Pseudotsuga menziesii, or Quercus garryana may be present. Perennial forbs may be present to abundant and include Allium cernuum, Camassia quamash, Camassia leichtlinii, Grindelia hirsutula, Iris douglasiana, Lomatium martindalei, Mimulus guttatus (in seeps), Plectritis congesta, Phlox diffusa, Sisyrinchium bellum, Sanicula arctopoides, and Triteleia hyacinthina. Significant portions of some balds, especially on rock outcrops, are dominated by bryophytes (mosses) such as Racomitrium canescens and to a lesser degree lichens (e.g., Cladonia portentosa (= Cladina portentosa)). The relative prevalence of grasslands versus shrublands increases from central to south range. To the north, conifers may occur more regularly. With fire suppression, Baccharis pilularis, Rosa nutkana, Symphoricarpos albus, and other shrubs may invade and can replace these grasslands with scrub-dominated systems. With increasing development activity, the invasive Cytisus scoparius may dominate the flora in the northern part of the range in British Columbia.
Dynamics: These sites are naturally non-forested due to shallow soils, steep slopes, sunny aspect, and/or upper slope position, rendering them too dry and marginal for tree establishment and growth except in microsites. In the northern part of the range, in British Columbia, the major limiting factor on shrub and tree cover is drought. In the central and southern range, shrub encroachment was also controlled by lightning-caused wildfires and intentional burns by Native Americans, which were historically frequent. More populated areas along the coastline probably burned more frequently than remote areas. A shift away from Native American to European practices and active fire suppression over the last 150 years has allowed shrubs to encroach sites in some parts of the range, causing a decline in the south-central range of this macrogroup. In British Columbia, the major decline is due to human development. The introduced Cytisus scoparius is most problematic where it spreads from initial invasion along roaded areas, and into these dry non-wooded sites.
Environmental Description: This macrogroup exists on shallow soils and windy sites where wind and/or salt spray combine to limit tree growth, or on variably inundated swales and meadows. Steep slopes on coastal bluffs, headlands, or small islands are typical, though stands can be found on relatively level tops of headlands or islands. In British Columbia, many areas are interior and not coastal (C. Cadrin pers. comm. 2014). The climate is relatively dry to wet (50.8 cm to perhaps 254 cm [20-100 inches] annual precipitation), always with a distinct dry summer season. Soils can be shallow to bedrock or of glacial or marine sediment origin.
Geographic Range: This macrogroup is found from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, down the coast to central California. It occurs at mid to low elevations on the lee side of the Vancouver Island Ranges, in the Coast Ranges, Klamath Mountains, and at low elevations on the lee side of the coastal mountains in the central part of the range. Small patches have been documented as far south as Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, California.
Nations: CA, US
States/Provinces: BC, CA, OR, WA
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)|
Pacific Lowland Mixed Forest Province
Confident or certain
Willamette Valley Section
Confident or certain
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Synonomy: < Balds (Franklin and Dyrness 1973)
< Coastal Prairie (214) (Shiflet 1994) [Most of the SRM Coastal Prairie type corresponds to this group.]
Concept Author(s): J.F. Franklin and C.T. Dyrness (1973)
Author of Description: G. Kittel and D. Meidinger
Acknowledgements: With acknowledgments for work from C. Chappell and J. Christy.
Version Date: 15Oct2014
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