The Vegetation Mapping Inventory (VMI) is an effort by the National Park Service (NPS) to
classify, describe, and map vegetation communities present on NPS units across the United States.
The Institute for Natural Resources, working in cooperation with the NPS North Coast and Cascades
Network (NCCN), has completed a VMI project for the vegetation communities of Mount Rainier
National Park (MORA).
The Mount Rainier National Park map is based on a vegetation classification developed during the project and was created using
an inductive modeling approach. The final vegetation map, including a buffer surrounding the park, contains 33 natural vegetated
classes, five mostly unvegetated natural classes, and four classes representing burned areas or
anthropogenic disturbance. Coniferous forests and woodlands cover about three-fifths of the park.
Upper montane forest codominated by silver fir (Abies amabilis), mountain hemlock (Tsuga
mertensiana) and/or Alaska-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis) is the most abundant forest zone by far.
Lower montane forest dominated by silver fir and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and
subalpine forest and woodland dominated by subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) and mountain hemlock
are about equally abundant. Lowland forest dominated by Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and
western hemlock is more limited, covering less than ten percent of the park. Each of the forest zones
are found throughout the park in appropriate habitat, but subalpine types are most abundant in the
northeastern park quadrant and lowland forests are associated primarily with the lower
Ohanapecosh/Cowlitz, Carbon and Nisqually river valleys. Broadleaf and mixed forests occupy less
than two percent of the park, mainly near major rivers, and often in an early successional state
following disturbance by flooding. Shrublands cover nine percent, mostly as high-elevation
mountain-heather, post-fire successional shrublands and tall shrubs in avalanche tracks. Herbaceous
vegetation occupies just over five percent, mainly in lush subalpine and sparse alpine meadows.
Sparsely vegetated and entirely bare rock, especially colluvial deposits, cover thirteen percent of the
park, and exposed snow and ice occupy eight percent. Lake and river surfaces round out most of the
remaining two percent.