Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Site Profile: Mount Princeton, Chaffee County

B2: Very High Biodiversity Significance

Mount Princeton Potential Conservation Area

The site was visited in 2008 during the Chaffee County Inventory. With an elevation of 14,197 feet, Mount Princeton is one of over 50 Colorado summits known as "fourteeners", and is part of the southern extension of the Collegiate Peaks range in central Colorado. Together with neighboring Mount Shavano and Mount Antero, Mount Princeton has formed through erosion of a batholith (large igneous intrusion originating deep in the earth's crust) of middle Tertiary age (20-40 million years old).

krummholz pine
A krummholz bristlecone pine

The south-facing slopes of Mount Princeton support a good example of the bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) forest that is found scattered throughout the Collegiate Peaks from 10,000-12,250 feet elevation, just below timberline, on moderate to steep slopes on south and east-facing aspects. The forest growing here is subject to difficult conditions, with desiccating winds, broadly fluctuating temperatures, and rocky soils. At the upper limit of the forest where conditions are harshest, trees grow in stunted "krummholz" form. Although they are only a few feet tall, these trees can be hundreds of years old.

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