Overview of Glacier’s Terrestrial Communities

  • Stephen R. Kessell
Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)


If one were to fly over Glacier National Park in a light aircraft, one would be immediately overwhelmed by row after row of high, snow-capped peaks (several of which reach over 3000 m) exhibiting bare rock and alpine tundra. Although about two-thirds of Glacier’s land area is forested, it is this extravagant display of the high country that catches the eye. Following the slopes down to lower elevations, one would observe the alpine meadows give way to larger and larger patches of Krummholz vegetation and, by 1800-m elevation, one would observe primarily continuous, upright forest of Abies lasiocarpa and Picea.1 At still lower elevations, the fir and spruce are replaced by Pseudotsuga and by either Tsuga and Thuja, or hybrid Picea in the mature stands, and by a complex successional mosaic including Pinus, Larix, Populus, and Betula, interspersed with patches of meadow, shrubfields, and the ever-present avalanche chutes. At the park’s lowest elevations (about 1000 m on the west side and 1350 m on the eastern border), more extensive meadows and prairie remnants and intrusions are encountered, as are more frequently and more intensely burned forest communities.


Alpine Meadow Trout Lake Mature Stand Natural Fire Alpine Tundra 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen R. Kessell
    • 1
  1. 1.Gradient Modeling, Inc.MissoulaUSA

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