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Ecological Sections: Southern Great Basin

Subsection 341Fb

Inyo Mountains

This subsection includes the Inyo Mountains, Malpais Mesa at the south end of the Inyo Mountains, and Deep Spring Valley.  It has a temperate to cold, arid climate.  MLRA 29f.

Lithology and Stratigraphy.  The bedrock is mainly Mesozoic granitic; Precambrian sedimentary and metamorphic; Paleozoic marine sedimentary; Triassic marine sedimentary; and Triassic - Jurassic metavolcanic rocks.  Nearly all of the Paleozoic is represented, from Cambrian through Permian.  Bedrock on and around Malpais Mesa is Pliocene volcanic rocks, mostly basalt.   The Quaternary is represented by both alluvial and lacustrine deposits in Warm Spring Valley and alluvial deposits in other much smaller valleys in the Inyo Mountains.

Geomorphology.   This subsection contains steep mountains, gently to moderately sloping alluvial fans and mesa, and nearly level floodplain and basin floor.  The mountains are aligned north-northwest, except southeast of Deep Spring Valley where they are aligned north-northeast.  The elevation range is from about 4000 feet up to 11,124 feet on Waucoba Mountain in the Inyo Mountains.  Mass wasting, fluvial erosion and deposition, and freeze-thaw are the main geomorphic processes.

Soils.  The soils are mostly Lithic Torriorthents, Lithic Xerollic Haplargids, and Lithic and Aridic Argixerolls.  On granitic rocks they are mostly shallow Typic Torriorthents  and shallow Entic Haploxerolls.  Soils on alluvial fans and basin floors are mostly Typic Torriorthents, Xerollic Camborthids, and Typic Durargids, plus Xerollic Haplargids on older alluvial fans.  The soils are well drained.  Soil temperature regimes are mesic and frigid.  Soil moisture regimes are mostly aridic, and some xeric.

Vegetation.   The predominant natural plant communities are Big sagebrush series at lower and Singleleaf pinyon series at higher elevations.  Low sagebrush series is common on shallow soils.  Limber pine series and Bristlecone pine series occur at high elevations in the Inyo Mountains.  Shadscale series, Mixed saltbush series, and Desert scrub shrublands predominate at lower elevations at the southern end of the subsection.   Other communities and habitats in this subsection include Curlleaf mountain mahogany series, Aspen series where snow accumulates, Willow thicket shrublands and Montane meadow habitats.

Characteristic series by lifeform include:

Grasslands: Ashy ryegrass series, Beaked sedge series, Creeping ryegrass series, Indian ricegrass series, Nebraska sedge series,  Needle-and-thread series.

Shrublands: Big sagebrush series, Black bush series, Bitterbrush series, Catclaw acacia series, Creosote bush series, Hop-sage series. Low sagebrush series, Rabbit rubberbrush series.

Forests and woodlands: Bristlecone pine series, Curlleaf mountain-mahogany series, Limber pine series, Singleleaf pinyon series, Singleleaf pinyon - Utah juniper series, Utah juniper series.
Climate.  The mean annual precipitation is about 8 to 16 inches.  Much of the precipitation is snow.  Mean annual temperature is about 35 to 54 F.  The mean freeze-free period is in the range from 75 to 225 days.

Surface Water.  Runoff is rapid from alluvial fans and slow from basin floors.  It drains to closed basins in the Owens Valley on the west, Eureka and Saline Valley on the east, or to Deep Spring Valley on the north.  Streams are dry most of each year.  There is a lake on the lacustrine plain in Deep Spring Valley. 

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