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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Salicornia rubra Herbaceous Vegetation

Common Name:
Red Saltwort Herbaceous Vegetation

Community Description

Summary:
This community is associated with highly alkali wetlands or semipermanent alkali lakes in the northern Great Plains and Great Basin of the United States and adjacent Canada. It often borders intermittent open water or is found on the exposed mud of alkali flats. Salicornia rubra may make up to 100% of the vegetation within these areas. Other species which may be found associated with Salicornia rubra include Puccinellia nuttalliana (= Puccinellia airoides), Distichlis spicata, Hordeum jubatum, Triglochin maritima, Chenopodium rubrum, and Suaeda calceoliformis.

Environment:
Salicornia rubra is found in exposed mud of alkali flats of saline wetland depressions during the dry or drawdown phase. This community is also found in the peripheral shallow-marsh zone of subsaline semipermanent ponds and lakes (Stewart and Kantrud 1971). In some areas, the major source of salinity is groundwater discharge (Dodd and Coupland 1966). The principle salts are sulfates and chlorides of sodium and magnesium (Stewart and Kantrud 1972). Few species can tolerate the extreme salinity of these wetlands. Dodd and Coupland (1966) found Salicornia rubra to be the principal dominant of alkali mudflats with fine-textured soils in southern Saskatchewan.

Vegetation:
Salicornia rubra often forms a monoculture within extremely alkaline mudflat areas. Dodd and Coupland (1966) found that it made up to 88-100% of the vegetative cover in plots. Other species include Puccinellia nuttalliana (= Puccinellia airoides), Distichlis spicata, Hordeum jubatum, Triglochin maritima, Chenopodium rubrum, and Suaeda calceoliformis.

Range:
This community is associated with highly alkaline wetlands or lakes in the northern Great Plains and Great Basin of the United States and adjacent Canada, ranging from western Minnesota to Saskatchewan, south to Colorado and possibly Nevada and California.

Global Rank: G2G3 State Rank: S2?

Global Rank Comments:
This type occurs over a broad geographic range and has been recorded from Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Colorado, and north into Saskatchewan, Canada. However, it has very specific habitat needs (Ungar 1974c), and there may be fewer than 50 occurrences rangewide. Hypersaline wetland basins which support the association have been impacted by water diversion, livestock grazing, and land conversion in many places. Saline wetlands in the Great Plains and upper Midwest have been described as especially vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and loss due to increasing population and agricultural development (Gersib and Steinauer 1991). The maintenance of stands of this association requires protection of hydrological processes such as seasonal inundation, evaporative drydown, and mineral accumulation, as well as preservation of suitable habitat.

Community References

Identifier:
CEGL001999

Author:
D. Lenz

Citations:
Bourgeron and Engelking 1994, Dodd and Coupland 1966, Driscoll et al. 1984, Gersib and Steinauer 1991, Greenall 1996, Hansen et al. 1991, Stewart and Kantrud 1971, Stewart and Kantrud 1972, Ungar 1972, Ungar 1974c

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This information is from the:
Montana Natural Heritage Program
Montana State Library--Natural Resource Information System
1515 East Sixth Ave., Helena, MT 59620-1800
406 444-5354
http://mtnhp.org
mtnhp@mt.gov