Great Plains Wooded Draw and Ravine
Provisional State Rank
* (see reason below)
State Rank Reason
Drought and change in species composition, along with grazing, are the greatest threats
This system is typically associated with highly intermittent or ephemeral streams. It may occur on steep northern slopes or within canyon bottoms where soil moisture and topography produce higher moisture levels than are common throughout most of the area. In some areas of the western Great Plains, in higher elevation draws and ravines, Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) can dominate the canopy. Aspen (Populus tremuloides), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), or boxelder maple (Acer negundo) are commonly present in portions of the northwestern Great Plains. In central and eastern Montana, green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanicus) or chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) are the usual dominants. Douglas hawthorne (Crataegus douglasii) is occasionally seen as a dominant in south-central Montana, especially around the Pryor Mountains. This system is found in ravines formed by ephemeral and intermittent streams, and on toeslopes and north-facing backslopes. Generally, these systems are less than 50 meters (165 feet) wide, although the linear extent may be considerable. Soils are usually deep and loamy. Flooding is very short in duration when it occurs, as water is rapidly channeled downslope.
Forest and Woodland, draw, ravine
This system is found throughout the Northwestern Glaciated Plains and the Northern Great Plains in Montana.
Ecological System Distribution
Approximately 1,989 square kilometers are classified as Great Plains Wooded Draw and Ravine in the 2016 Montana Land Cover layers.
Grid on map is based on USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle map boundaries.
Montana Counties of Occurrence
BIG HORN, BLAINE, CARBON, CARTER, CASCADE, CHOUTEAU, CUSTER, DANIELS, DAWSON, FALLON, FERGUS, GARFIELD, GLACIER, GOLDEN VALLEY, HILL, JUDITH BASIN, LEWIS AND CLARK, LIBERTY, MCCONE, MEAGHER, MUSSELSHELL, PARK, PETROLEUM, PHILLIPS, PONDERA, POWDER RIVER, PRAIRIE, RICHLAND, ROOSEVELT, ROSEBUD, SHERIDAN, STILLWATER, SWEET GRASS, TETON, TOOLE, TREASURE, VALLEY, WHEATLAND, WIBAUX, YELLOWSTONE
Wooded draws and ravines are best developed under conditions that favor snow entrapment, development of deeper soils, and concentration of moisture. These conditions are typical of ravines formed by ephemeral and intermittent streams and on toeslopes and north-facing backslopes. Uplands are generally mixed grass prairies and shrublands. Generally, these systems are less than 50 meters (165 feet) wide, although the linear extent may be considerable. Soils are usually deep loams. Flooding is very short in duration when it occurs, as water is rapidly channeled downslope.
In Montana, this community is composed mostly of small trees, although larger diameter trees can occur at the foot of the ravine where there is greater available soil moisture. In some areas of the western Great Plains, in higher elevation draws and ravines, Rocky Mountain juniper can dominate the canopy. Aspen, paper birch or boxelder maple are commonly present in portions of the northwestern Great Plains. Throughout central and eastern Montana, green ash or chokecherry are the typical dominants, although Douglas hawthorne is occasionally seen as a dominant in south-central Montana, especially around the Pryor Mountains. Boxelder maple and American elm (Ulmus rubra or Ulmus americana) are often present. In many parts of Montana, particularly in disturbed occurrences, the understory is a dense shrub layer of western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis). In less disturbed sites, the understory is two-layered, with a shrub layer of chokecherry and other Prunus species, as well as hawthorne species, silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata), current (Ribes species), Woods' rose (Rosa woodsii), and silver buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea). The lowest layer is dominated by sedges (Carex species) and grasses such as northern reedgrass (Calamagrostis stricta), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), and thickspike wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus). Common forbs include American licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), meadow rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum), and bedstraw (Galium species). Exotics such as Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), yellow sweetclover (Meliotus officinalis) and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) are often found throughout these systems, especially in agricultural areas.
Alliances and Associations
- (A.954) (Black Hawthorn, Fleshy Hawthorn) Temporarily Flooded Shrubland
- (A.954) (Black Hawthorn, Fleshy Hawthorn) Temporarily Flooded Shrubland
- (A.918) American Silverberry Shrubland Alliance
- (A.290) Eastern Cottonwood Temporarily Flooded Forest Alliance
- (A.308) Green Ash - (American Elm) Temporarily Flooded Forest Alliance
- (A.629) Green Ash - (American Elm) Woodland Alliance
- (A.563) Rocky Mountain Juniper Temporarily Flooded Woodland Alliance
- (A.961) Western Snowberry Temporarily Flooded Shrubland Alliance
Both domestic animals and wildlife use these systems readily, leading to trampling of vegetation and an increase in shrub domination. Fire is a secondary influence.
Shade and moisture draw livestock into draws and ravines, concentrating use and creating the potential for degradation and the spread of exotic and invasive species. Alternate shade, water, and forage for livestock can reduce pressure on these systems, and maintain them as wildlife habitat.
Restoration of this system may require alternate grazing practices to allow it to recover. Dominant species such as chokecherry, Douglas hawthorne, boxelder and elm have extensive root systems and will increase in cover after recovery or re-establishment. These species are rated as good to excellent for soil erosion control. In some cases, shrubs can be planted in clusters or bands in areas with high soil erosion potential. All other associated understory shrubs within this system - western snowberry, silverberry, gooseberry, Woods' rose, and silver buffaloberry - are rated as good to excellent restoration species, and possess strongly rhizomatous root systems that minimize soil erosion on steep slopes.
Species Associated with this Ecological System
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Native Species Commonly Associated with this Ecological System
- Native Species Occasionally Associated with this Ecological System
Original Concept Authors
Montana Version Authors
- Classification and Map Identifiers
Cowardin Wetland Classification:
National Vegetation Classification Standard:
||Forest and Woodland
||Temperate Flooded and Swamp Forest
||Western North America Flooded and Swamp Forest
||Rocky Mountain and Great Basin Flooded and Swamp Forest
National Land Cover Dataset:
|Element Global ID
||CES303.680, Western Great Plains Wooded Draw and Ravine
43: Mixed Forest
4328: Western Great Plains Wooded Draw and Ravine
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Combs, J. 2010. Best Management Practices for Montana Biology, Ecology, and Management of Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) and Saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima, T. chinensis, and their hybrids). Natural Resource Conservation Service. ftp://ftpfc.sc.egov.usda.gov/MT/www/technical/invasive/Invasive_Species_Tech_Note_MT30.pdf.
- Gucker, C.L. 2005. Fraxinus pennsylvanica. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
- Howard, J.L. 1996. Populus tremuloides. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
- Katz, G.L. and P.B. Shafroth. 2003. Biology, ecology and management of Elaeagnus angustifolia L.(Russian olive) in western North America. Wetlands 23(4):763-777.
- Lesica, P. 2009. Can Regeneration of Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) be Restored in Declining Woodlands in Eastern Montana?. Rangeland ecology & management 62(6):564-571.
- Lesica, P. and C.B. Marlow. 2011. Values and management of Montana’s green ash draws. MontGuide No. MT201114AG. Montana State University Extension.
- Lesica, Peter. 2003. 'Effects of Wildfire on Recruitment of Fraxinus pennsylvanica in Eastern Montana Woodlands'. American Midland Naturalist. 149 (2): 258-267.
- Mineau, M.M., C.V. Baxter, and A.M. Marcarelli. 2011. A non-native riparian tree (Elaeagnus angustifolia) changes nutrient dynamics in streams. Ecosystems 14(3):353-365.
- Rosario, L.C. 1988. Acer negundo. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
- Scher, J.S. 2002. Juniperus scopulorum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory. 2012. Information from LANDFIRE on Fire Regimes of Western Great Plains Ash-Elm Communities. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture,
- Uchytil, R.J. 1991. Betula papyrifera. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
- Uresk, D.W., J. Javersak, and D.E. Mergen. 2009. Tree sapling and shrub heights after 25 years of livestock grazing in green ash draws in western North Dakota. In Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science 88:99-108.