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Ecological Sections: Sierra Nevada - (MAP)

Subsection M261Et
Carson Range

This subsection is a mountain range east and northeast of lake Tahoe.  It has a cold to very cold and semi-arid to subhumid climate.  MLRAs 22e and 22f.

Lithology and Stratigraphy.   Mesozoic granitic rocks and, in the northern part of the subsection, Tertiary andesite and lahar predominate in this subsection.  There are some pre-batholith metamorphic rocks, too.  Pleistocene glacial till and outwash are common on both sides of the Carson Range.  There is little Holocene alluvium.

Geomorphology.   Steep mountain slopes predominate in this subsection.  The Carson Range is elongated parallel to high-angle, or normal, faults and is aligned north-south. There is small area of gently to moderately sloping subsummit plateau at the north end of the Carson Range.  Also, there are small areas of gently sloping to moderately steep glacial moraines and nearly level to moderately sloping outwash plain, floodplain, and alluvial fans.  The elevation ranges from 5500 or 6000 feet at the northern end of the Carson range, or 6230 feet along the shore of Lake Tahoe, up to 10,776 feet on Mt. Rose and 10,881 feet on Freel Peak.  Faulting, mass wasting, and fluvial erosion and deposition are the main geomorphic processes.

Soils.  The soils are mostly shallow Typic and Dystric Xeropsamments; shallow Typic Cryopsamments; Typic Cryorthents; Typic, Entic, and Andic Xerumbrepts; Lithic, Typic, and Entic Cryumbrepts; and, around the north end of the Carson Range, Aridic Pachic Haploxerolls and Aridic Argixerolls.  Mollic Cryoboralfs are common on the subsummit plateau, with Humic Cryaquepts in swales.  Soils on moraines are mostly Entic and Pachic Xerumbrepts.  The soils are mostly well drained; poorly drained soils are not extensive.  Soil temperature regimes are mostly frigid and cryic.  Soil moisture regimes are mostly xeric, but aridic at lower elevations at the north end of the Carson Range.

Vegetation.   The predominant natural plant communities are Jeffrey pine series and White fir series at lower elevations.  At higher elevations, there is Red fir series and, on north-facing slopes, small areas of Mountain hemlock series.  Whitebark pine series is common at the highest elevations.   Sedge meadow communities and Willow thickets predominate in wet areas, with Lodgepole pine series around the margins of wet areas.

    Characteristic series by lifeform include:
    Grasslands: Alpine habitat, Ashy ryegrass series, Montane meadow habitat, Nebraska sedge series, Needle-and-thread series, Rocky Mountain sedge series.
    Shrublands: Big sagebrush series, Bitterbush series, Greenleaf manzanita series, Low sagebrush series, Parry rabbitbrush series, Rubber rabbitbrush series, Tobacco brush series.
    Forests and woodlands: Jeffrey pine series, Lodgepole pine series, Mountain hemlock series, Red fir series, Washoe pine series, Western white pine series, White fir series, Whitebark pine series.
Climate.  The mean annual precipitation is about 15 to 40 inches; most it falls as snow.  Mean annual temperature is about 35 to 45 F.  The mean freeze-free period is about 25 to 100 days.

Surface Water.  Runoff is rapid from most of the area.  The runoff flows to the Carson River, Truckee River, or Lake Tahoe, which is drained by the Truckee River. 

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