Skip to main content

Forest vegetation of the Colorado Front Range: Patterns of species diversity

Summary

Plant species diversity patterns of the Rocky Mountain forests were found to be at variance with patterns reported from other regions. The most centrally located forests in terms of elevation, site moisture and successional status were found to have the lowest diversity. In contrast, the peripheral and environmentally more severe sites were found to have relatively high diversity. In particular, the forest-grassland transition and the low elevation riparian forests have species diversity values as high as any yet reported from western North America.

When diversity was examined in terms of variation across elevation or moisture gradients, varying results were obtained due to the interaction of these factors. The failure of previous studies to converge on generalizations about plant diversity reflects, in part, the failure of most investigators to view diversity in a regional context of variation across several interacting gradients.

Diversity was seen to vary inversely with the degree of development of the forest canopy. The interaction of different components of the forest community is one reason for the failure of general patterns of plant species diversity to emerge from previous studies. A potentially rich herb community can be greatly suppressed by a single species tree stratum.

Among the most successful work to date on species diversity is that on birds, a distinct albeit large and functional group. It is unlikely that similar success could have been achieved through work on all animal species simultaneously. This suggests the need to examine plant species diversity, not in terms of total diversity, but in terms of component functional groups, perhaps guilds, growing under similar microclimatic conditions and subject to similar competitive pressures.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Abele, L.G. 1976. Comparative species richness in fluctuating and constant environments: Coral-associated decapod crustaceans. Science 192: 461–463.

    Google Scholar 

  • Auclair, A.N. & F.G., Goff. 1971. Diversity relations of upland forests in the western Great Lakes area. Amer. Nat. 105: 499–528.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bazzaz, F.A. 1975. Plant species diversity in old-field successional ecosystems in southern Illinois. Ecology 56: 485–488.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bratton, S.P. 1975. A comparison of the beta functions of the overstory and herbaceous understory of a deciduous forest. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 102: 55–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, J.H. 1971. Mammals on mountaintops: Nonequilibrium insular biogeography. Amer. Nat. 105: 467–478.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brünig, E.F. 1973. Species richness and stand diversity in relation to site and succession of forests in Sarawak and Brunei (Borneo). Amazoniana 3: 293–320.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bunin, J.E. 1975. The vegetation of the west slope of the Park Range, Colorado. Ph.D. thesis. Univ. Colorado, Boulder. 255 pp.

  • Carbiener, R. 1970. Un example de type forestier exceptionnel pour l'Europe occidentale: La fôret du lit majeur du Rhin au niveau du fossé rhénan. (Fraxino-Ulmetum Oberd. 53). Intérêtécologique et biogéographique. Comparaison á d'autres forêts thermophiles (English summary) Vegetatio 20: 97–148.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cody, M.L. 1975. Towards a theory of continental species diversities: Bird distributions over Mediterranean habitat gradients. In: M.L., Cody & J.M., Diamond (eds.), Ecology and Evolution of Communities, pp. 214–257. Belknap Press, Cambridge, Mass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Connell, J.H. & E., Orias. 1964. The ecological regulation of species diversity. Amer. Nat. 98: 399–414.

    Google Scholar 

  • Curtis, J.T. 1959. The Vegetation of Wisconsin: An Ordination of Plant Communities. Univ. Wisc. Press, Madison. 657 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dahl, E. 1957. Rondane: Mountain vegetation in South Norway and its relation to the environment. Skr. Norske Vidensk.-Akad. Oslo, I. Mat.-Naturv. Kl. 1956 (3): 1–374.

    Google Scholar 

  • Daubenmire, R.F. 1943. Vegetational zonation in the Rocky Mountains. Bot. Rev. 9: 325–393.

    Google Scholar 

  • Daubenmire, R.F. 1970. Steppe vegetation of Washington. Wash. Agr. Exp. Stat., Tech. Bull. 62: 1–131.

    Google Scholar 

  • Daubenmire, R.F. & J.B., Daubenmire. 1968. Forest vegetation of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Wash. Agr. Exp. Stat., Tech. Bull. 60: 1–104.

    Google Scholar 

  • Despain, D.G. 1973. Vegetation of the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming, in relation to substrate and climate. Ecol. Monogr. 43: 329–355.

    Google Scholar 

  • Diamond, J.M. 1972. Biogeographic kinetics: Estimation of relaxation times for avifaunas of southwest Pacific islands. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 69: 3199–3203.

    Google Scholar 

  • Douglas, G.W. 1972. Subalpine plant communities of the Western North Cascades, Washington. Arct. Alp. Res. 4: 147–166.

    Google Scholar 

  • Douglas, G.W. 1974. Montane zone vegetation of the Alsck River region, southwestern Yukon. Can. J. Bot. 52: 2505–2532.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fasham, M.J.R. 1977. A comparison of nonmetric multidimensional scaling, principal components and reciprocal averaging for the ordination of simulated coenoclines, and coenoplanes. Ecology 58: 551–561.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frydman, I. & R.H., Whittaker. 1968. Forest associations of southeast Lublin Province, Poland (German summary). Ecology 49: 896–908.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gauch, H.G. 1973. A quantitative evaluation of the Bray-Curtis ordination. Ecology 54: 829–836.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gauch, H.G. & R.H., Whittaker. 1972. Comparison of ordination techniques. Ecology 53: 868–875.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gauch, H.G., R.H., Whittaker & T.R., Wentworth. 1977. A comparative study of reciprocal averaging and other ordination techniques. J. Ecol. 65: 157–174.

    Google Scholar 

  • Glenn-Lewin, D.C. 1975. Plant species diversity in ravines of the southern Finger Lakes region, New York. Can. J. Bot. 53: 1465–1472.

    Google Scholar 

  • Glenn-Lewin, D.C. 1977. Species diversity in North American temperate forests. Vegetatio 33: 153–162.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guinochet, M. 1973. Phytosociologie. Masson, Paris. 227 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Habeck, J.R. 1968. Forest succession in the Glacier Park cedarhemlock forests. Ecology 49: 872–880.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harger, J.R.E. & K., Tustin. 1973. Succession and stability in biological communities. Part 1: Diversity. Int. J. Envirn. Stud. 5: 117–130.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hill, M.O. 1973a. Reciprocal averaging: an eigenvecter method of ordination. J. Ecol. 61: 237–249.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hill, M.O. 1973b. Diversity and evenness: a unifying notation and its consequences. Ecology 54: 427–432.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hill, M.O. 1974. Correspondence analysis: a neglected multivariate method. Appl. Statist. 23: 340–354.

    Google Scholar 

  • Horn, H.S. 1974. The ecology of secondary succession. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 5: 25–37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hvessalo, Y. 1922. Vegetationsstatistische Untersuchungen über die Waldtypen. Acta Forest. Fenn. 20(3): 1–73.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hvessalo, Y. 1973. Perä=Pohjolan luonnon normaalien metsikoiden kasvu ja kehitys. (Engl. summ.) Metsätieteellisen Tutkimuslaitoksen Julkaisuja 24(2): 1–168.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jeglum, J.K. 1972. Boreal forest wetlands near Candle Lake, central Saskatchewan. I. Vegetation, Musk-Ox 11: 41–58.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, W.C., R.L., Burgess & W.R., Keammerer. 1976. Forest overstory vegetation and environment on the Missouri River floodplain in North Dakota. Ecol. Monogr. 46: 59–84.

    Google Scholar 

  • Karr, J.R. & R.R., Roth. 1971. Vegetation structure and avian diversity in several new world areas. Amer. Nat. 105: 423–435.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kiener, W. 1940. Sociological Studies of the alpine vegetation on Longs Peak. Univ. Nebr. Stud., n.s. 34 (June 1967), 75 pp.

  • Knight, D.H. 1975. A phytosociological analysis of species-rich tropical forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Ecol. Monogr. 45: 259–284.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leigh, E.G.Jr. 1975. Population fluctuations, community stability, and environmental variability. In: M.L., Cody & J.M., Diamond (eds.), Ecology and Evolution of Communities, pp. 51–73. Belknap Press, Cambridge, Mass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levin, S.A. 1974. Dispersion and population interactions. Amer. Nat. 108: 207–228.

    Google Scholar 

  • Loucks, O.L. 1970. Evolution of diversity, efficiency, and community stability. Amer. Zool. 10: 17–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maarel, E.van der 1971. Plant species diversity in relation to management. In: E., Duffey & A.S., Watt (eds.), The Scientilic Management of Animal and Plant Communities for Conservation, pp. 45–63. Blackwell Publications, Oxford.

    Google Scholar 

  • MacArthur, R.H. 1969. Species packing, and what interspecies competition minimizes. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 64: 1369–1371.

    Google Scholar 

  • MacArthur, R.H. 1970. Species packing and competitive equilibrium for many species. Theor. Popul Biol. 1: 1–11.

    Google Scholar 

  • MacArthur, R.H. & R., Levins. 1967. The limiting similarity, convergence, and divergence of coexisting species. Amer. Nat. 101: 377–385.

    Google Scholar 

  • MacArthur, R.H. & J.W., MacArthur. 1961. On bird species diversity. Ecology 42: 594–598.

    Google Scholar 

  • McNaughton, S.J. 1968. Structure and function in California grasslands. Ecology 49: 962–972.

    Google Scholar 

  • Margalef, R. 1963. On certain unifying principles in ecology. Amer. Nat. 97: 357–374.

    Google Scholar 

  • Margalef, R. 1968. Perspectives in Ecological Theory. Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 111 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mason, H.L. & J.H., Langenheim. 1957. Language analysis and the concept environment. Ecology 38: 325–340.

    Google Scholar 

  • May, R.M. & R.H., MacArthur. 1972. Niche overlap as a function of environmental variablity. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 69: 1109–1113.

    Google Scholar 

  • May, R.M. 1973. Stability and Complexity in Model Ecosystems Monogr. Popul. Biol. 6. Princeton Univ. Press, N.J. 235 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Menge, B.A. & J.P., Sutherland, 1976. Species diversity gradients: Synthesis of the roles of predation, competition, and temporal hetorogencity. Amer. Nat. 110: 351–369.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moir, W.H. 1969. The lodgepole pine zone in Colorado. Amer. Midl. Nat. 81: 87–98.

    Google Scholar 

  • Monk, C.D. 1965. Southern mixed hardwood forest of north central Florida. Ecol. Monogr. 35: 335–354.

    Google Scholar 

  • Monk, C.D. 1967. Tree species diversity in the eastern deciduous forest with particular reference to north central Florida. Amer. Nat. 101: 173–187.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moral, R.de. 1972. Diversity patterns in forest vegetation of the Wenatchee Mountains, Washington. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 99: 57–64.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moral, R.del. 1973. The vegetation of Findley Lake Basin. Amer. Midl. Nat. 89: 26–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholson, S.A. & C.D., Monk. 1974. Plant species diversity in old-field succession on the Georgia Piedmont. Ecology 55: 1075–1085.

    Google Scholar 

  • t.Odum, E.P. 1969. The strategy of ecosystem development. Science 164: 262–270.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ogawa, H., K., Yoda & T., Kira. 1961. A preliminary survey on the vegetation of Thailand. Nature Life S.E. Asia 1: 21–157.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ogawa, H., K., Yoda, T., Kira, K., Ogino, T., Shidei, D., Ratanawongse & C., Apasutaya. 1965. Comparative ecological study on three main types of forest vegetation in Thailand. I. Structure and floristic composition. Nature Life S.E. Asia 4: 13–48.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oosting, H.J. & J.F., Reed. 1952. Virgin spruce-fir of the Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming, Ecol. Monogr. 22: 69–91.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peet, R.K. 1974. The measurement of species diversity. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 5: 285–307.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peet, R.K. 1975. Forest vegetation of the east slope of the northern Colorado Front Range. Ph.D. thesis, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, N. Y.

  • Pfister, R. 1972. Vegetation and soils in the subalpine forests of Utah. Ph.D. thesis, Wash. State Univ., Pullman.

  • Prusinkiewicz, Z. 1970. Die Zahl der auf dem Minimi-Areal vorkommenden Gefässpflanzenarten als Mass für die Fruchtbarkeit der Waldböden. (Engl. summ.). In: R., Tüxen (ed.), Gesellschaftsmorphologie (Strukturforschung). Ber. Symp. Int. Ver. Vegetationskunde, Rinteln 1966, pp. 282–296. Junk, The Hague.

    Google Scholar 

  • Recher, H.F. 1969. Bird species diversity and habitat diversity in Australia and North America. Amer. Nat. 103: 75–80.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reed, R.M. 1969. A study of forest vegetation in the Wind River Mountains, Wyoming. Ph.D. thesis, Wash. State Univ., Pullman.

  • Richards, P.W. 1952. The Tropical Rain Forest. Cambridge Univ. Press. 450 pp.

  • Risser, P.G. & E.L., Rice. 1971. Diversity in tree species in Oklahoma upland forests. Ecology 52: 876–880.

    Google Scholar 

  • Root, R.B. 1967. The niche exploitation pattern of the blue-gray gnatcatcher. Ecol. Monogr. 37: 317–350.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sanders, H.L. 1969. Benthic marine diversity and the stability-time hypothesis. Brookhaven Symp. Biol. 22: 71–81.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shafi, M.I. & G.A., Yarranton. 1973. Diversity, floristic richness and species evenness during a secondary (post-fire) succession. Ecology 54: 897–902.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sirén, G. 1955. The development of spruce forest on raw humus sites in northern Finland and its ecology. Acta Forest. Fenn. 62(4): 1–363.

    Google Scholar 

  • Slobodkin, L.B. & H.L., Sanders. 1969. On the contribution of environmental predictability to species diversity. Brookhaven Symp. Biol. 22: 82–95.

    Google Scholar 

  • Swan, J.M.A. & R.L., Dix. 1966. The phytosociological structure of upland forest at Candle Lake, Saskatchewan. J. Ecol. 54: 13–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tagawa, H. 1964. A study of the volcanic vegetation in Sakurajima, Southwest Japan. I. Dynamics of vegetation. Mem. Fac. Sci. Kyushu Univ. Ser. E. (Biol.) 3: 165–228.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, D.L. 1973. Some ecological implications of forest fire control in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Ecology 54: 1394–1396.

    Google Scholar 

  • Terborgh, J. 1973. On the notion of favorableness in plant ecology. Amer. Nat. 107: 481–501.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weber, W.A. 1976. Rocky Mountain Flora. Fifth ed. Colorado Assted, University Press, Boulder 479 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Westman, W.E. & R.H., Whittaker. 1975. The pygmy forest region of northern California: studies on biomass and primary productivity. J. Ecol. 63: 493–520.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. 1956. Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ecol. Monogr. 26: 1–80.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. 1960. Vegetation of the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon and California. Ecol. Monogr. 30: 279–338.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. 1965. Dominance and diversity in land plant communities. Science 147: 250–260.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. 1967. Gradient analysis of vegetation. Biol. Rev. 42: 207–264.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. 1972. Evolution and measurement of species diversity. Taxon 21: 213–251.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. 1973. Direct gradient analysis. In: R.H., Whittaker (ed.), Ordination and Classification of Communities. Handbk. Veg. Sci. 5: 7–51. Junk, The Hague.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. 1977. Evolution of species diversity in land communities. Evol. Biol. (in press).

  • Whittaker, R.H. & P.L., Marks. 1975. Methods of assessing terrestrial productivity. In: H., Lieth & R.H., Whittaker (eds.), Primary Productivity of the Biosphere. Ecol. Studies 14: 55–118. Springer, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. & W.A., Niering. 1965. Vegetation of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona: A gradient analysis of the south slope. Ecology 46: 429–452.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whittaker, R.H. & W.A., Niering. 1975. Vegetation of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona. V. Biomass, production, and diversity along the elevation gradient. Ecology 56: 771–790.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wikum, D.A. & M.K., Wali. 1974. Analysis of a North Dakota gallery forest: vegetation in relation to topographic and soil gradients. Ecol. Monogr. 44: 441–464.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williard, B.E. 1963. Phytosociology of the alpine tundra of Trail Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Ph.D. thesis, Univ. Col., Boulder.

  • Wirsing, J.M. 1973. Forest vegetation in southeastern Wyoming. M.S. thesis, Wash. State Univ., Pullman.

  • Yoda, K. 1967. A preliminary survey of the forest vegetation of eastern Nepal. II. General description, structure and floristic composition of the sample plots chosen from different vegetation zones. J. Coll. Arts Sci. Chiba Univ., Nat. Sci. Ser. 5: 99–140.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zobel, D.B., A., McKee, G.M., Hawk & C.T., Dyrness. 1976. Relationships of environment to composition, structure, and diversity of forest communities of the central western Cascades of Oregon. Ecol. Monogr. 46: 135–156.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

Nomenclature follows Weber (1976).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Peet, R.K. Forest vegetation of the Colorado Front Range: Patterns of species diversity. Vegetatio 37, 65–78 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00126830

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00126830

Keywords

  • Colorado
  • Diversity
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Species diversity
  • Stratal relationships
  • Succession