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Riparian Areas and Wetlands

Painted turtleRiparian areas and wetlands are small but important parts of the ecosystem at Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge

Riparian corridors and wetlands are important components of the ecosystem at Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.  Their presence often means there is higher biodiversity in an area because they provide water, cover, perches, and alter the microclimate in ways that allow more species to live in an area.  Riparian areas also provide important migration corridors for many species. 


Riparian areas and wetlands provide important ecosystems services filtering and cleaning water that passes through them, improving water quality.

Riparian woodlands cover 28 acres of the refuge and consist primarily of a canopy of plains cottonwood, peachleaf willow, Siberian elm and coyote willow and shrubs such as leadplant and snowberry found on the ground.


Riparian shrublands are found on 41 acres of the site and are dominated by species such as narrowleaf willow, coyote willow, indigo bush, leadplant, Baltic rush, and a variety of sedges.


Tall upland shrublands comprise 34 acres of Rocky Flats and consist of the rare association of hawthorn, chokecherry, and sometimes wild plum.  This group is primarily associated with on-site groundwater seeps and create an important microhabitat where rare species such as Fendler waterleaf, spreading sweetroot, anise root, carrionflower greenbriar, fragile fern, Colorado violet, Rydberg’s violet and northern bedstraw are found.  Though tall upland shrublands represent less than 1% of the total area at Rocky Flats, 55% of the refuge’s plant species are found within this habitat type, illustrating the importance of water associated ecosystems.  Significantly, Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge may be the only location of this shrubland community

Last Updated: Mar 15, 2014
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