Posted by: columbiahighlands | December 13, 2011

Highlands geology: Lithosols

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The bald knobs and ridges protruding from the grasslands of the western Columbia Highlands may appear lifeless and unforgiving, but these lithosols–shallow, rocky and nutrient-poor soils–benefit a surprising array of wildlife. In the winter, bobcat, cougar, coyote and rodent tracks reveal these semi-barren spots’ roles as travel routes, hunting grounds and seed-foraging oases. Come spring, these open, dry expanses shed their snow early, allowing pollinators to feast on some of the first wildflowers of the season. In early summer, buckwheat, bitterroot, and fameflower grace places such as Cougar Mountain and Clackamas Mountain with their delicate, brightly colored blooms. Although lithosol plants and lichens are remarkably hardy in the face of unforgiving living conditions, they are vulnerable to errant off-road vehicles and livestock.

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