Ecosystem Within an Ecosystem in Grand Teton National Park

November 08, 2017

 Kettle Ecosystem-resized 3055 (2)

Photographer: George Seielstad 
Summary Authors: George Seielstad; Jim Foster

Kettle Interior-resized (2)The valley east of the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, is dominated by sagebrush, dry shrub-land. So the small, circular patch of forest shown above is quite conspicuous. This forested patch, the result of a glacial feature known as a kettle, presents a message both about geologic history and about ecosystem formation. The forested ecosystem's interior, a small ecosystem within a large one, differs totally from the sage plains in which it's embedded. Thousands of years ago, a massive ice block broke off from a retreating glacier, leaving a depression with ecosystem properties that distinguished it from the dominant sage plains habitat. At first, the depression was likely water-filled. Later, it began to drain, but since the soil was moister than that supporting the sage, seeds from conifers, perhaps dispersed from the nearby Teton Range, began to sprout. A look into the future reveals that the depression will continue to fill gradually. The pocket of forest and grass will eventually merge into its surroundings. Photo taken on September 25, 2017.

Photo Details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D500; Lens: 18-300mm ƒ/3.5-6.3; Focal Length: 18mm (35mm equivalent: 27mm); Aperture: ƒ/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0025 s (1/400); ISO equiv: 500; Software: Adobe Photoshop Elements 14.0 (Windows). Inset - same except:  Aperture: ƒ/9.0; Exposure Time: 0.010 s (1/100); ISO equiv: 800.