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Ecological Sections: Mono

Subsection 341Di
Benton - Upper Owens Valleys

This subsection includes the Queen, Benton, Hammil, Chalfant, and upper part of the Owens Valleys (actually one valley with different names for different segments of it) along the western margin of the White Mountains, and Round Valley, which is at the western margin of the Sierra Nevada.  It has a hot to temperate, arid climate.  MLRAs  26f and 30g.

Lithology and Stratigraphy.  Quaternary alluvium pervades the entire subsection.

Geomorphology.   The landforms are gently to moderately sloping alluvial fans and  nearly level floodplains, basin floors, and terraces.  All valleys are aligned north-south, except Queen Valley, which trends northeast at the northern end of the White Mountains.  The elevation range is about 3900 feet to 6000.  Fluvial erosion and deposition are the main geomorphic processes.

Soils.  The soils are mostly Xeric and Typic Torrifluvents, Xeric and Typic Torriorthents, Xeric Torripsamments, Aquic Xerofluvents, Typic Camborthids, Xerollic and Typic Haplargids, and Typic Natrargids.  The soils are well drained, except for few somewhat poorly drained soils on floodplains and basin floors.  Soil temperature regimes are mesic and thermic.  Soil moisture regimes are mostly aridic, and some xeric where ground-water affects the moisture regime.

Vegetation.   The predominant natural plant communities are Shadscale series, Big sagebrush  series, Mixed saltbush series, and Desert scrub alliances.  Other series, which are commonly associated with seeps, riparian, or alkali sink areas, are Greasewood, Alkali sacaton, and Saltgrass.

Characteristic series by lifeform include:

Grasslands: Alkali sacaton  series, Ashy ryegrass series, Beaked sedge series, Cordgrass series, Creeping ryegrass series, Indian ricegrass series, Needle-and-thread series, Saltgrass series.

Shrublands: Allscale series, Big sagebrush series, Bitterbrush series, Bush seepweed series, Fourwing saltbush series, Rubber rabbitbrush series, Shadscale series, Winter fat series.
Climate.  The mean annual precipitation is about 6 to 8 inches.  Most of the precipitation is rain.  Mean annual temperature is about 48 to 58 F.  The mean freeze-free period is in the range from 150 to 200 days.

Surface Water.  Runoff is rapid from fans and slow on basin floors.  The Owens River and some streams from the Sierra Nevada are perennial, but others are dry most of each year. 

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