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North Pacific Dry and Mesic Alpine Dwarf-Shrubland, Fell-Field and Meadow

This system occurs above the environmental limit of trees, at the highest elevations of the mountain regions of the Pacific Northwest Coast. It is confined to the coldest, wind-blown areas above treeline and above the subalpine parkland. This system is found at elevations above 2350 m (7200 feet) in the Klamath Mountains and Cascades north into the Cascade and Coastal mountains of British Columbia. It is commonly comprised of a mosaic of plant communities with characteristic species including Cassiope mertensiana, Phyllodoce empetriformis, Phyllodoce glanduliflora, Luetkea pectinata, Saxifraga tolmiei, and Carex spp. It occurs on slopes and depressions where snow lingers, the soil has become relatively stabilized, and the water supply is more or less constant. Vegetation in these areas is controlled by snow retention, wind desiccation, permafrost, and a short growing season. This system includes all vegetated areas in the alpine zone of the North Pacific. Typically it is a mosaic of dwarf-shrublands, fell-fields, tundra (sedge turfs), and sparsely vegetated snowbed communities. Small patches of krummholz (shrub-form trees) are also part of this system and occur at the lower elevations. Communities are dominated by graminoids, foliose lichens, dwarf-shrubs, and/or forbs. Vegetation cover ranges from about 5 or 10% (snowbeds) to nearly 100%. The alpine tundra of the northern Cascades has floristic affinities with many mountain regions in western North America. The strongest relationships are with the Arctic and Cordilleran regions to the north and east.

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