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 The shaded north slopes

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cerberus
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PostSubject: The shaded north slopes   Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:44 pm

All plants and animals that live in and around Craters of the Moon are under great environmental stress due to constant dry winds and heat-absorbing black lavas that tend to quickly sap water from living things. Summer soil temperatures often exceed 150 °F (66 °C) and plant cover is generally less than 5% on cinder cones and about 15% over the entire monument.[29] Adaptation is therefore necessary for survival in this semi-arid harsh climate.

Water is usually only found deep inside holes at the bottom of blow-out craters.[10] Animals therefore get the moisture they need directly from their food.[30] The black soil on and around cinder cones does not hold moisture for long, making it difficult for plants to establish themselves. Soil particles first develop from direct rock decomposition by lichens and typically collect in crevices in lava flows. Successively more complex plants then colonize the microhabitat created by the increasingly productive soil.

The shaded north slopes of cinder cones provide more protection from direct sunlight and prevailing southwesterly winds and have a more persistent snow cover (an important water source in early spring). These parts of cinder cones are therefore colonized by plants first.

Gaps between lava flows were sometimes cut-off from surrounding vegetation. These literal islands of habitat are called kīpukas, a Hawaiian name used for older land surrounded by younger lava. Carey Kīpuka is one such area in the southernmost part of the monument and is used as a benchmark to measure how plant cover has changed in less pristine parts of southern Idaho.[31]




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