The Field Guide help is divided into sections.
Overview covers the background and history of this guide.
How to Use the Guide covers navigation and search topics. The last section,
Guide Contents, highlights the information sections of the
Ecological Systems account pages.
Heritage Program ecologists, working with information gleaned from other Rocky Mountain Heritage Network partners,
recently completed the "Ecological Systems Field Guide" for Montana. This encyclopedic website provides
extensive, detailed profiles of the ecological systems mapped in Montana for the 2010 Montana State Digital
Infrastructure (MSDI) Land Cover and Land Use theme.
Ecological systems are groupings of biological communities occurring in similar physical environments, and
influenced by similar ecological processes such as flooding, fire, wind, and snowfall. The ecological
system concept was developed to provide a mappable unit that could be classified from aerial or satellite
imagery, and that would be easily identifiable in the field by land managers, resource specialists, and
planners (Comer et al. 2003). Systems typically occur on a landscape at scales of tens to thousands
of acres, and generally persist in a recognizable state for 50 or more years.
The Field Guide offers a broad range of information, including a general description or summary of the system,
diagnostic characteristics, similar systems, spatial pattern, environment, general vegetation, specific
plant alliances and associations, dynamic processes, management and restoration considerations, and associated
animal species. Photos and Distribution Maps are also provided. Users can view lists of ecological
systems by land cover class or category or by name. Within each description, links to our Animal
Field Guide allow the user to explore Montana’s biodiversity.
The Ecological Field Guide was designed to be easy to use and to explore. We encourage you to take some
time to look around the site and see all of the ecological systems that provide habitat for Montana’s plant
and animal species.
Navigation of the Online Field Guide can be accomplished by either using the back and forward buttons on your
browser or by the “hotlinked” navigation pathway found under the photo banner. Either method will allow
movement back and forward to previously observed pages.
Below are brief descriptions of the topics found in the Ecological Systems Field Guide. If a heading is
missing from the page you are viewing, it means there is no information available for that topic.
Click to download offline versions of our field guide.