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M082 Warm & Cool Desert Alkali-Saline Marsh, Playa & Shrubland Macrogroup

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
Type Concept Sentence: This macrogroup consists of alkaline and saline wetlands with salt-tolerant plant growth where dominant and characteristic plant species include Atriplex spp., Distichlis spicata, Salicornia spp., Sarcobatus vermiculatus, Sesuvium verrucosum, Sporobolus spp., Suaeda moquinii, and Triglochin maritima. These are located in playas, washes, mudflats and depressional wetlands where evaporation far exceeds precipitation and/or where bedrock and soil properties contribute to alkaline/saline conditions. Sites are found throughout the western U.S. and southwestern Canada.
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Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Warm & Cool Desert Alkali-Saline Marsh, Playa & Shrubland Macrogroup
Colloquial Name: Warm & Cool Desert Alkali-Saline Marsh, Playa & Shrubland
Hierarchy Level: Macrogroup
Type Concept: This macrogroup consists of alkaline and saline wetlands dominated by salt-tolerant shrubs or herbs (or both) such as Allenrolfea occidentalis, Artemisia tridentata, Atriplex spp., Distichlis spicata, Eleocharis spp., Juncus spp., Isocoma acradenia, Grayia spinosa, Krascheninnikovia lanata, Leymus cinereus, Leymus triticoides, Salicornia spp., Sarcobatus vermiculatus, Sesuvium verrucosum, Sporobolus airoides, Suaeda moquinii, and/or Triglochin maritima. These wetlands occur near drainages, on stream terraces or flats and may form rings around drying ponds or playas. Soils are alkaline to saline that varies greatly with soil moisture and greatly affects species composition. Sites also experience intermittent, seasonal or semipermanent flooding and/or raised water tables. Sites may retain water into the growing season and dry completely only in drought years, while others dry out for the growing season. Some sites have seasonal drying that exposes mudflats which are colonized by annual wetland vegetation. Sites are found throughout the western U.S. and southwestern Canada.
Diagnostic Characteristics: Salt-tolerant shrublands or herbaceous vegetation with a shallow water table.
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features:
Classification Comments: All interior alkaline/saline wetlands are together in one macrogroup. Andropogon glomeratus, Distichlis spicata, Eleocharis rostellata, Muhlenbergia utilis, Schoenus nigricans, Solidago spectabilis var. confinis, and Solidago spectabilis var. spectabilis along with a variety of other forbs occur in sites with alkaline springs in eastern California (Evens et al. 2014). These stands are placed in this macrogroup until further data compilation and analysis occur.
Similar NVC Types:
M077 Great Plains Saline Wet Meadow & Marsh, note:
M081 North American Pacific Coastal Salt Marsh, note:
M888 Arid West Interior Freshwater Marsh, note:
Physiognomy and Structure: Open shrub and/or herbaceous vegetation.
Floristics: Shrublands are dominated by Allenrolfea occidentalis, Atriplex canescens, Atriplex confertifolia, Atriplex gardneri, Atriplex parryi, Grayia spinosa, Isocoma acradenia, Krascheninnikovia lanata, Sarcobatus vermiculatus, and/or Suaeda moquinii. Herbaceous stands may be dominated by Calamovilfa longifolia, Distichlis spicata (= Distichlis stricta), Eleocharis palustris, Leymus cinereus, Leymus triticoides (= Elymus triticoides), Eleocharis palustris, Juncus cooperi, Juncus mexicanus, Muhlenbergia spp., Poa secunda, Puccinellia lemmonii, Puccinellia nuttalliana, Sarcocornia utahensis, Sporobolus airoides, Suaeda moquinii (= Suaeda nigra), and/or Triglochin maritima (West 1983b, Knight 1994). During exceptionally wet years, increased precipitation can dilute soil salt concentrations which may allow less salt-tolerant species to become established or more abundant.
Dynamics: During exceptionally wet years, the salt concentration drops, allowing less salt-tolerant species to appear, such as cattails (Typha spp.) or bulrushes (Scirpus and/or Schoenoplectus spp.) (Knight 1994). Water evaporation leaves high salt concentrations in the soils. Some areas only flood during wet years, sometimes only once or twice in a decade. Others will have standing water every spring, except in the driest of years.
Environmental Description: Climate: Cold or warm basins and desert. Soil/substrate/hydrology: Sites typically have saline/alkaline soils, a shallow water table and flood or high water table intermittently, seasonally to semipermanently. Sites may remain dry for most growing seasons, or remain wet due to poor drainage. The water table generally remains high enough to maintain vegetation, despite salt accumulations (West 1983b, Knight 1994). Some stands occur on floodplains, along the margins of perennial lakes, and in alkaline closed basins, with extremely low-gradient shorelines, and slopes with alkaline springs. Environmental information compiled from individual associations and Knight (1994).
Geographic Range: This macrogroup is found throughout much of the western U.S. in intermountain basins and in southwestern Canada.
Nations: CA, MX, US
States/Provinces: AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY
US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)
Domain Name:
Division Name:
Province Name: Southwest Plateau and Plains Dry Steppe and Shrub Province
Province Code: 315    Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Yellowstone Highlands Section
Section Code: M331A     Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Omernik Ecoregions:
Plot Analysis Summary:
Confidence Level: High
Confidence Level Comments:
Grank: GNR
Greasons:
Concept Lineage:
Predecessors:
Obsolete Names:
Obsolete Parents:
Synonomy: < Salt Desert Shrub (414) (Shiflet 1994)
>< Saltbush - Greasewood (501) (Shiflet 1994)
Concept Author(s): Faber-Langendoen et al. (2014)
Author of Description: G. Kittel
Acknowledgements:
Version Date: 15Oct2014
References:
  • Billings, W. D. 1945. The plant associations of the Carson Desert region, western Nevada. Butler University Botanical Studies 7:89-123.
  • Billings, W. D. 1949. The shadscale vegetation zone of Nevada and eastern California in relation to climate and soils. The American Midland Naturalist 42(1):87-109.
  • 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.
  • Evens, J. M., K. Sikes, D. Hastings, and J. Ratchford. 2014. Vegetation alliance descriptions for Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve. Unpublished report submitted to USDI National Park Service, Mojave Desert Network Inventory and Monitoring Program. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento, CA.
  • Faber-Langendoen, D., J. Drake, S. Gawler, M. Hall, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, L. Sneddon, K. Schulz, J. Teague, M. Russo, K. Snow, and P. Comer, editors. 2010-2019a. Divisions, Macrogroups and Groups for the Revised U.S. National Vegetation Classification. NatureServe, Arlington, VA. plus appendices. [in preparation]
  • Fautin, R. W. 1946. Biotic communities of the Northern Desert Shrub Biome in western Utah. Ecological Monographs 16(4):251-310.
  • Knight, D. H. 1994. Mountains and plains: Ecology of Wyoming landscapes. Yale University Press, New Haven, MA. 338 pp.
  • Peinado, M., J. Delgadillo, A. Aparicio, J. L. Aguirre, and M. Á. Macías. 2013. Major plant communities of the Carson Desert (Nevada), North America's coldest and driest desert. Plant Biosystems. doi: 10.1080/11263504.2013.845267.
  • Sawyer, J. O., T. Keeler-Wolf, and J. Evens. 2009. A manual of California vegetation. Second edition. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento CA. 1300 pp.
  • Shiflet, T. N., editor. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Society for Range Management. Denver, CO. 152 pp.
  • Stout, D., J. Buck-Diaz, S. Taylor, and J. M. Evens. 2013. Vegetation mapping and accuracy assessment report for Carrizo Plain National Monument. California Native Plant Society, Vegetation Program, Sacramento, CA. 71 pp.
  • Thomas, K. A., T. Keeler-Wolf, J. Franklin, and P. Stine. 2004. Mojave Desert Ecosystem Program: Central Mojave vegetation mapping database. U.S. Geological Survey, Western Regional Science Center. 251 pp.
  • West, N. E. 1983b. Intermountain salt desert shrublands. Pages 375-397 in: N. E. West, editor. Temperate deserts and semi-deserts. Ecosystems of the world, Volume 5. Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam.