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Ecological Sections: Southern California Mountains and Valleys

Subsection M262Bg

San Gorgonio Mountains

Forest Trail in Big Bear area.

This subsection comprises the lower and warmer parts of the San Bernardino Mountains, which are between the southern branch of the San Andreas fault on the south-southwest and the Mojave Desert on the north.  It extends from the Cajon Pass eastward to near the Pipes Canyon fault.  It includes mountains between the Mission Creek fault and the Banning fault on the south.  The climate is hot to temperate and subhumid.  Marine effects on climate are moderate on the south-southwest side and slight on the north and east sides of the mountains.  MLRA 20e.

Lithology and Stratigraphy. This subsection contains mostly Mesozoic granitic rocks and Pre-Cambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks. Also, there is some Paleozoic marine sedimentary rock and minor amounts of Pliocene nonmarine sediments.  The mountains are a horst with faults and steep escarpments on the south-southwest, east-northeast, and west-northwest sides.  Quaternary nonmarine sediments and Recent alluvium are small but important components of the subsection.

Geomorphology.  This is a subsection of steep and very steep mountains with narrow to rounded summits and narrow canyons.  The subsection elevation range is from about 1500 feet up to 6000 feet.  Mass wasting and fluvial erosion are the main geomorphic processes.

Soils.  The soils are mostly shallow Typic Xerorthents, shallow Entic Haploxerolls, Entic Ultic Haploxerolls, and Mollic Haploxeralfs on granitic and Pre-Cambrian rocks and Lithic and Typic Xerochrepts on Paleozoic marine sedimentary rocks.  On Recent alluvium and Quaternary marine sediments there are Typic and Mollic Xerofluvents and Ultic Argixerolls.  Most of the soils are leached free of carbonates.  The soils are well drained.  Soil temperature regimes are thermic at lower elevations and on south-facing slopes, and some are mesic on north-facing slopes at higher elevations.  Soil moisture regimes are xeric.

Vegetation.  The predominant natural plant communities are Chamise series on shallow and very stony soils, Live oak chaparral shrublands, and Mixed chaparral shrublands at lower elevations and on south-facing slopes; Ponderosa pine series and Mixed conifer series at higher elevations; and Jeffrey pine series on the north side of the mountains.

    Characteristic series by lifeform include:

    Grasslands: California annual grassland series, Desert needlegrass series.

    Shrublands: Bigberry manzanita series, Bitterbrush series, Black bush series, California buckwheat series, California sagebrush series, Chamise series, Chamise - bigberry manzanita series, Chamise - Eastwood manzanita series, Chamise - hoaryleaf ceanothus series, Chamise - cupleaf ceanothus series, Chamise - white sage series, Chamise - black sage series,  Chaparral whitethorn series, Cupleaf ceanothus - fremontia - oak series, Eastwood manzanita series, Fourwing saltbush series, Hoaryleaf ceanothus series, Scrub oak series, Scrub oak chaparral - whitethorn series, Interior live oak shrub series, Interior live oak - chaparral whitethorn series, Interior live oak - scrub oak shrub series, Interior live oak - canyon live oak shrub series, Mixed scrub oak series, Mulefat series, Scrub oak series,  Scrub oak - chamise series, Scrub oak - chaparral whitethorn series, Scalebroom series.

    Forests and woodlands: Birchleaf mountain-mahogany series, California juniper series, California walnut series, Coulter pine series, Coulter pine - canyon live oak series, Bigcone Douglas-fir series, Bigcone Douglas-fir - canyon live oak series,  Black oak series, Canyon live oak series, Coast live oak series, Curlleaf mountain-mahogany series, Knobcone pine series, Interior live oak series, Jeffrey pine series, Mixed conifer series, Ponderosa pine series, Singleleaf pinyon series, Singleleaf pinyon - Utah Juniper series.
Climate.  The mean annual precipitation is about 20 to 30  inches.  Most of it is rain at lower elevations and snow at higher elevations.  Mean annual temperature is about 45 to 60  F.  The mean freeze-free period is about 200 to 250 days.

Surface Water.  Runoff is rapid.  All but the larger streams are dry through the summer.  Natural lakes are absent. 

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