Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Vancouverian Alpine Tundra Macrogroup
Colloquial Name: Vancouverian Alpine Tundra
Hierarchy Level: Macrogroup
Type Concept: This macrogroup consists primarily of alpine vegetation where dwarf-shrubs characterize the cover. The dwarf-shrubs vary in cover from sparse to continuous. Herbaceous meadows are also common, but even they often have a dwarf-shrub component. Rocky and sparsely vegetated sites are characteristic of the higher elevations and exposed sites. Dominant dwarf-shrub species include Cassiope mertensiana, Cassiope tetragona, Dryas octopetala, Empetrum nigrum, Harrimanella stelleriana, Loiseleuria procumbens, Luetkea pectinata, Phyllodoce aleutica, Phyllodoce empetriformis, Phyllodoce glanduliflora, Salix arctica, Salix nivalis, Salix reticulata, Vaccinium uliginosum, and Vaccinium vitis-idaea. Herbaceous species include Aconitum delphiniifolium, Anemone narcissiflora, Arenaria capillaris, Artemisia arctica, Carex breweri, Carex capitata, Carex macrochaeta, Carex nardina, Carex proposita, Carex spectabilis, Castilleja unalaschcensis, Chamerion spp., Eriogonum pyrolifolium, Festuca brachyphylla, Festuca idahoensis ssp. roemeri, Fritillaria camschatcensis, Geranium erianthum, Lupinus nootkatensis, Nephrophyllidium crista-galli, Packera cana, Pedicularis contorta, Phlox diffusa, Polemonium acutiflorum, Polygonum bistortoides, Sanguisorba canadensis, Saxifraga tolmiei, Senecio triangularis, Valeriana sitchensis, Veratrum viride and Viola spp. Some sites are dominated by nonvascular taxa such as Racomitrium spp. and Stereocaulon spp. This macrogroup occurs in the Pacific Northwest coastal region north to maritime Alaska, including the Aleutian Islands. It is primarily on alpine and subalpine sites, but it can also be found at lower elevations on the Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Islands and Kodiak Island, where it is found on cliffs, rocky outcrops, exposed summits, windswept ridges, fell-fields, valley bottoms, sideslopes, stabilized dunes, terraces, moraines and fans. The dominant disturbances are snow avalanche, soil creep and freeze-thaw action.
Diagnostic Characteristics: The macrogroup is characterized by dwarf-shrub vegetation, often called alpine heath. Associated species are composed of a mixture of mesic to wet alpine and subalpine graminoids and forbs from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features:
Classification Comments: No Data Available
Similar NVC Types:
M404 Western Boreal Alpine Tundra, note:
M099 Rocky Mountain-Sierran Alpine Tundra, note:
Physiognomy and Structure: This macrogroup is characterized by an open to closed dwarf-shrub canopy frequently dominated by Ericaceous or Salix species, or an herbaceous layer, often composed of a mixture of perennial graminoids and forbs.
Floristics: Overall species composition is diverse, and species richness is often very high; typically no single species is dominant. Dominant dwarf-shrub species include Cassiope lycopodioides (Haida Gwaii), Cassiope mertensiana, Cassiope tetragona, Empetrum nigrum, Harrimanella stelleriana, Luetkea pectinata, Phyllodoce aleutica, Phyllodoce empetriformis, and Phyllodoce glanduliflora. Other common species may include Loiseleuria procumbens, Vaccinium cespitosum, Vaccinium deliciosum, Vaccinium membranaceum, Vaccinium uliginosum, and Vaccinium vitis-idaea. Ericaceous species typically dominate, but sites dominated by Salix arctica, Salix nivalis, Salix rotundifolia, and Salix reticulata are included. Scattered tall shrubs and dwarf trees may also be present. Other co-associates include Artemisia arctica and Arctostaphylos alpina. Common herbaceous species include Aconitum delphiniifolium, Anemone narcissiflora, Arenaria capillaris, Artemisia arctica, Athyrium filix-femina, Carex breweri, Carex capitata, Carex filifolia, Carex macrochaeta, Carex nardina, Carex proposita, Carex spectabilis, Castilleja unalaschcensis, Chamerion angustifolium (= Epilobium angustifolium), Chamerion latifolium, Deschampsia cespitosa, Eriogonum pyrolifolium, Festuca brachyphylla, Festuca idahoensis ssp. roemeri (= Festuca roemeri), Fritillaria camschatcensis, Geranium erianthum, Lupinus arcticus, Lupinus latifolius, Lupinus nootkatensis, Lupinus sellulus, Nephrophyllidium crista-galli, Oreostemma alpigenum, Packera cana, Pedicularis contorta, Phlox diffusa, Polemonium acutiflorum, Polygonum bistortoides, Polygonum viviparum, Sanguisorba canadensis, Saxifraga bronchialis, Saxifraga oppositifolia, Saxifraga tolmiei, Senecio triangularis, Valeriana sitchensis, Valeriana sitchensis, Veratrum viride, and Viola spp. Bryophyte cover is often high. Sparsely vegetated stands on exposed areas often have nonvascular (lichen)-dominated communities, which includes taxa such as Racomitrium spp. and Stereocaulon spp.
Dynamics: The dominant disturbances are snow avalanche, soil creep and freeze-thaw action.
Environmental Description: This macrogroup occurs above the environmental limit of trees, at the highest elevations of the mountain regions of the Pacific Northwest coast north to southeastern maritime Alaska, primarily on alpine and subalpine sites, but it can also be found at lower elevations. A high snowpack characterizes this environment and much of this macrogroup occurs on slopes and depressions where snow lingers, the soil has become relatively stabilized, and the water supply is more-or-less constant. However, there are sites where wind scours snow off, and sites are characterized by the absence of persistent snow, wind desiccation, permafrost, and a short growing season. In the Aleutian Islands, stands occur on sideslopes, shoulder slopes, and low summits, and the terrain varies from gently sloping to steep. Sparsely vegetated stands occur on exposed summits, windswept ridges, and fell-fields. These sites are characterized by harsh environmental conditions. Slopes vary from moderately sloped to flat. The substrate is colluvium, residuum, or glacial till. Also included in this macrogroups are areas of exposed rock and rubble above the forestline (subalpine parkland and above) composed of barren and sparsely vegetated alpine substrates, typically including bedrock outcrops, scree slopes, rock crevices, upper mountain slopes, summits and nunataks.
Geographic Range: This macrogroup occurs in the highest elevations in the Cascade Range, from southwestern British Columbia south into northern California, the mountains of the Pacific Northwest coast north to southeastern maritime Alaska, primarily on alpine and subalpine sites, but it is also found at lower elevations on the Aleutian Islands, Kenai Fjords and in Prince William Sound.
Nations: CA, US
States/Provinces: AK, BC, CA, OR, WA
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)|
Intermountain Semi-Desert Province
Confident or certain
Western Cascades Section
Confident or certain
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Synonomy: >< AM Alpine Meadow (Ecosystems Working Group 1998)
>< AT Alpine Tundra (Ecosystems Working Group 1998)
< Alpine Grassland (213) (Shiflet 1994) [SRM type 213 includes all alpine communities in Sierra, Klamath and California Cascades, both herbaceous and shrub dominated, and wet meadows.]
>< Alpine Idaho Fescue (108) (Shiflet 1994)
? Coastal Mountain-heather Alpine (CMA) zone (MacKenzie 2005)
>< II.D.2.d - Mountain-heath tundra (Viereck et al. 1992)
>< II.D.2.e - Cassiope tundra (Viereck et al. 1992)
>< III.A.2.f - Mesic sedge-herb meadow tundra (Viereck et al. 1992)
>< III.B.2.a - Mixed herbs (Viereck et al. 1992)
? Mesic Forb Alpine (Boggs et al. 2008a)
Concept Author(s): Faber-Langendoen et al. (2014)
Author of Description: G. Kittel
Version Date: 29Mar2017
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