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Rocky Mountain Alpine Turf

This widespread ecological system occurs above upper treeline throughout the Rocky Mountain cordillera, including alpine areas of ranges in Utah and Nevada, and isolated alpine sites in the northeastern Cascades. It is found on gentle to moderate slopes, flat ridges, valleys, and basins, where 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 is characterized by a dense cover of low-growing, perennial graminoids and forbs. Rhizomatous, sod-forming sedges are the dominant graminoids, and prostrate and mat-forming plants with thick rootstocks or taproots characterize the forbs. Dominant species include Artemisia arctica, Carex elynoides, Carex siccata, Carex scirpoidea, Carex nardina, Carex rupestris, Festuca brachyphylla, Festuca idahoensis, Geum rossii, Kobresia myosuroides, Phlox pulvinata, and Trifolium dasyphyllum. Many other graminoids, forbs, and prostrate shrubs can also be found, including Calamagrostis purpurascens, Deschampsia caespitosa, Dryas octopetala, Leucopoa kingii, Poa arctica, Saxifraga spp., Selaginella densa, Sibbaldia procumbens, Silene acaulis, Solidago spp., and Trifolium parryi. Although alpine dry tundra is the matrix of the alpine zone, it typically intermingles with alpine bedrock and scree, ice field, fell-field, alpine dwarf-shrubland, and alpine/subalpine wet meadow systems.

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