Numerous landscape depressions on the High Lava Plain of southeast Oregon, USA are ponded in most years, but their wetland status has not been examined closely. We applied the standard wetland criteria (hydrology, soils, and vegetation) to one such pool to evaluate whether the pool meets federal criteria as a jurisdictional wetland. Wetland hydrology was determined to be present based on data from piezometer and ponding observations. Soils were determined to be hydric based on hydrology, soil temperature, and redox potentials. Vegetation met wetland criteria according to the 50/20 rule. Vegetation was similar to that of California Northern Basalt Flow vernal pools. Oregon pools are locally called “upland playas,” but they fit the definition of vernal pools. Many southeast Oregon vernal pools are dug out as waterholes for livestock, increasing ponding depth and duration. Increased water availability can alter biological communities within pools and on surrounding semi-arid uplands. Effects due to grazing and excrement inputs have not yet been investigated. Vernal pools constitute distinct habitat sites within semi-arid landscapes and, therefore, probably play an important, and so far poorly understood, ecological role on the southeast Oregon steppe.
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Vol. 22 • No. 4