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Ecological Sections: Southern Great Basin

Subsection 341Fa

Silver Peak Mountains - Fish Lake Valley

This subsection is east of the White Mountains.  It includes the Silver Peak Mountains, Palmetto Mountains, Magruder Mountain, Sylvania Mountains, and Fish Lake Valley.   It has a temperate to cold, arid climate.   MLRA 29f.

Lithology and Stratigraphy.  The bedrock is mainly Jurassic and Cretaceous granitic;  Tertiary and Quaternary andesite and basalt; Tertiary silicic pyroclastic; Precambrian sedimentary; and early Paleozoic, mostly Ordovician, sedimentary rocks.  Quaternary alluvium covers about one-half of the subsection.

Geomorphology.   This subsection contains steep mountains, moderately steep hills, gently to moderately sloping alluvial fans, and nearly level floodplain and basin floor.  The mountains are aligned north-south on the west side of Clayton Valley (adjacent subsection) and curve around the south end of the valley toward the northeast on the east side of Clayton Valley.  The elevation range is from about 4700 feet in Fish Lake Valley up to 9407 feet in the Silver Peak Mountains.  Mass wasting, fluvial erosion and deposition, and freeze-thaw are the main geomorphic processes.

Soils.  The soils on granitic rocks, which is the predominant kind of rock in California,  are mostly shallow Typic and Xeric  Torriorthents and shallow Aridic Haploxerolls.  Soils on older alluvial fans are mostly Xerollic and Duric Haplargids.  Those on younger fans and basin floors are mostly Typic and Oxiaquic Torriorthents and Aeric Halaquepts.  The soils are well drained, except for poorly drained soils on basin floors.  Soil temperature regimes are mesic and frigid.  Soil moisture regimes are mostly aridic, but some are aquic on basin floors.

Vegetation.   The predominant natural plant communities are Big sagebrush series at lower elevations and Singleleaf pinyon series at higher elevations.  Low sagebrush series is common on shallow soils.  On somewhat poorly to poorly drained floodplains and basin floors there are Greasewood series and Saltgrass series.

Characteristic series by lifeform include:

Grasslands: Alkali sacaton series,  Indian ricegrass series, Needle-and-thread series, Saltgrass series, Mulefat series.

Shrublands: Big sagebrush series, Bitterbrush series, Greasewood series, Hop-sage series. Low sagebrush series,  Rubber rabbitbrush series, Shadscale series.

Forests and woodlands: Curlleaf mountain-mahogany series, Singleleaf pinyon series, Utah juniper series.
Climate.  The mean annual precipitation is about 5 to 10 inches.  Much of the precipitation is snow.  Mean annual temperature is about 40 to 52 F.  The mean freeze-free period is in the range from 100 to 200 days.

Surface Water.  Runoff is rapid from alluvial fans and slow from basin floors.  It drains to a salt flat in Fish Lake Valley. 

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