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
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
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Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge was established in part to preserve and protect more than 630 species of plants, as well as the rare xeric tallgrass prairie.