Rocky Mountain Montane Riparian

Photo Point 285
The view east, down Rattlesnake Canyon, just below its confluence with Pipestem Canyon, 14 May 2011, 4700 feet (1433 m). Sycamore (Platanus wrightii) and willow (Salix exigua) co-dominate with ponderosa pine for a short stretch of Rattlesnake and Pipestem Canyons, with each species providing 15-25% cover along the banks. Common associates include poison ivy and alligator juniper. Less common (<1% cover) were walnut, New Mexico locust, emory oak, canyon grape, false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), and cottonwood. Downstream, the ponderosa vanish; upstream, the willow and other riparian species are rare and local, and the canyon was judged to be pine-oak rather than riparian.
The Rocky Mountain Montane Riparian ecosystem is defined not only by the presence of particular riparian species such as sycamore and canyon grape (Vitis arizonica), but also by the absence of these species outside of the watercourse. This study revealed very little montane riparian habitat, which is defined here as riparian species in the company of big pines and cypress. (Down-canyon, the riparian habitat is typically mapped as Warm Desert Riparian, which lacks the tall conifers). For instance, the long straight north-south reach of Rattlesnake Canyon, from Mailbox up to the bend east towards Holdout Cave, lacks bedrock that would bring up the subsurface water. Instead, it's five miles of flood rubble, nicely shaded by tall conifers, but mostly lacking riparian species, and truly lacking surface water. Hence, areas which are relatively mesic yet not distinguished by riparian species are not mapped as part of the ecosystem, which is why Rattlesnake Canyon above its confluence with Mailbox Canyon is mapped as pine-oak, not riparian, despite scattered sycamore.
Rocky Mountain Montane Riparian was mapped between 4400 and 5600 feet, in Redfield, South Negro, Pipestem, and Rattlesnake Canyons.
In terms of the US Forest Service Potential Natural Vegetation Type, the area mapped is more similar to the Montane Willow Riparian System than the Gallery Coniferous Riparian Forest. In terms of the National Vegetation Classification System (NVCS), the area mapped is part of the Rocky Mountain Lower-Montane Riparian ecosystem.
Photo Point 304
The view southwest up Pipestem Canyon, just below it confluence with Peepstem Canyon, 5000 feet (1500 m), 14 May 2011. Pipestem had little flowing water in May after a dry spring, yet held numerous waterholes and walnut, ash, sycamore, bigtooth maple, and canyon grape. 

Photo Point 309
Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) and young walnut in Pipestem Canyon near its confluence with Peepstem Canyon, 14 May 2011.
Other Vegetation Classifications
The Rocky Mountain Montane Riparian ecosystem, as mapped in this study, is similar if not identical to the NVCS Rocky Mountain Lower Montane-Foothill Riparian Woodland and Shrubland. The shorter name was adopted because that’s what appears in the Landfire (see crosswalk below).
The observed ecosystem includes elements of several vegetation types mapped or described in other classification schemes. In each of the seven schemes referred to below, the * symbol marks the vegetation type most similar to the Rocky Mountain Montane Riparian ecological system.
And what is meant by ‘most similar’? For the USFS Plant “Habitat Type” (Potential Association) and the Brown, Lowe, and Pase “Biome”, the * symbol denotes the best fit based on the description of the Habitat Type or Biome. For the Landfire, ReGap, and USFS PNVT and mid-scale dominance classifications, which are presently mapped as 30 meter pixels, the * symbol denotes the classification that was most commonly attributed within the Warm Desert Riparian, as mapped in this effort. The actual percentage attributed is given in parenthesis (%).
For example, the montane riparian polygons created by this study were used as a 'cookie-cutter' on the Landfire Existing Vegetation Type (EVT) layer (see methods). Within this study’s Rocky Mountain Montane Riparian ecosystem, 36% were Mogollon Chaparral, 32%  were attributed as Madrean Pinyon-Juniper, and 26% were North American Warm Desert Riparian.
NOTE: There is a poor correspondence between this map and remotely-sensed maps based on analysis of 30 meter square pixels. This is at least in part due to the narrow corridor that is typical of riparian systems, which is often only one pixel (30 meters) wide. The skinny band of riparian vegetation, while easy for a human to spot, is apparently not so easy for a computer to figure out. Because of the high vegetation cover, riparian vegetation is often misattributed as chaparral, despite the obvious difference in height.

Landfire Existing Vegetation Type (EVT, version 1.0.5)
Mogollon Chaparral * (36%) (includes Quercus turbinella shrubland alliance)
Madrean Pinyon-Juniper (32%)
North American Warm Desert Riparian (26%)
Note: EVT did not map any Rocky Mountain Montane Riparian

Landfire Biophysical Setting (BpS, version 1.0.0, which is older but judged by the author as locally more accurate)
North American Warm Desert Riparian Systems – Stringers * (46%)
Mogollon Chaparral (24%)
Madrean Pinyon-Juniper (14%)
Rocky Mountain Montane Riparian (11%) 

USFS Mid-scale Dominance Type
(Note: the Coronado Mid-scale map did not map riparian habitat, and hence had no riparian vegetation type)
USFS Plant Habitat Type (Potential Association)
Arizona sycamore series (PLWR2 series)
USFS Potential Natural Vegetation Type (PNVT) based on 24 Oct 2011 draft map
Interior Chaparral * (72%)
Madrean Encinal (12%)
Madrean Pine-oak (8%)
Semi-desert grassland (7%)
Montane Willow Riparian Forest (1%)
Brown, Lowe, and Pase Biome
Rocky Mountain Riparian Deciduous Forest

Southwest Regional GAP Ecological System
Mogollon Chaparral * (67%)
Madrean Pine-oak (12%)
Madrean Pinyon –juniper (11%)
Apacherian-Chihuahuan Mesquite Upland Scrub (8%)
North American Warm Desert Lower Montane Riparian Woodland and Shrubland (1%)


40 ha
Area in acres: 
97 acres