What are vegetation communities?
Vegetation communities are defined on the basis of the most visible plants present. Four vegetation communities dominate the Central Wasatch Mountains: Shrubland, Forest, Alpine and Riparian
Vegetation Zones of the Central Wasatch
As we drive from the valley floor to the peaks of the central Wasatch Mountains, we are driving along an elevation and climate gradient. It is hottest and driest at the base of the mountains and coolest and wettest at the higher elevations. Associated with changes in these climates are distinct transitions in the forest communities. Trees and shrubs are adapted to different climate regions and we see these zones as we pass through different elevations.
Explore the different vegetation communities of the Central Wasatch.
Elevation range: ~5,000-8,000 feet
Shrublands occur at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. The most common shrubs are Gambel oak and bigtooth maple. Springtime grasses and forbs are common.
Elevation range: ~7,000-10,000 feet
Much of the Wasatch Mountains is dominated by conifer forests, with different trees associated with different elevations. Juniper and white fir occur at lower elevations. Douglas fir and aspen span from lower to high elevations. Subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce are found in the upper elevations.
Elevation range: above 10,000 feet
The highest elevations of the Wasatch Mountains are a mix of alpine meadows and fellfields, and occasional conifer trees. Here you will find subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, and limber pine.
Elevation range: ~5,000-11,000 feet
The riparian zone is a distinct vegetation occurring adjacent to streams and wetlands. Riparian vegetation is dominated by shrubs and deciduous trees. Birch, box elder, cottonwood, and dogwood are common at lower to mid elevations, giving way to willows at higher elevations.
Our forests have been subject to both natural and human-made impacts.