Ecological systems are recurring groups of biological communities that are found in similar physical
environments and are influenced by similar dynamic processes, such as fire or flooding. They are
intended to provide a classification unit that is readily mapable, often from remote imagery, and
readily identifiable by conservation and resource managers in the field. Ecological systems include
both native, natural vegetation and non-native, human influenced vegetation.
Central Shortgrass Prairie by Michael Menefee
Expand the list below for system descriptions.
Forest and Woodland
Shrubland, Steppe, & Savanna
Sparse & Barren
Wetland / Riparian
As a mid-scale classification system, ecological systems are ideal for conservation assessment, inventory and mapping,
land management, ecological monitoring, and species habitat modeling. Wetland condition assessment methods developed
by CNHP and vegetation maps created for the National Park Service are based on the ecological systems classification,
with metrics specific to certain systems.
Data behind the map of Colorado ecological systems shown below was developed by the LANDFIRE Program
For readability, the ecological systems in Colorado have been grouped by dominant species or physiognomy. The map is based on a model of ecological
system distribution. While it accurately portrays the patterns of ecological systems across Colorado, the model may not be precise at a fine scale
for all locations. In addition, some systems, especially wetlands, do not occur in patches big enough to show at the state scale.
Map of Colorado ecological systems
Ecological System Descriptions
CNHP has developed detailed descriptions for the ecological systems in Colorado. Funding for the development of these documents was provided
in part by The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service.