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Wetlands

Spray Zones

Plunge pool and spray zone, Salt Creek Falls, Lane County

Plunge pool and spray zone, Salt Creek Falls, Lane County
(John A. Christy, Oregon Biodiversity Information Center)

Spray zones are associated with waterfalls or turbulent, high-gradient streams where cascading water creates spray over canyon walls or streamside rocks. Spray may be a gentle mist or violently driven by the turbulence of falling water or thunderous churning of plunge pools at the base of falls. Spray zones create perennially hydrated areas ideal for wetland plants and animals, and are sometimes called "hanging gardens," or "vertical wetlands." Thick, saturated mats of mosses and liverworts are typical of spray zones, and these create a substrate for a variety of invertebrates and vascular plants adapted to this environment, some of them rare species. Spray zones usually attenuate somewhat during normal summer drought, but minimum base flows are probably needed to maintain spray zone communities. They have not been well studied, but threats are probably low.

Spray Zones Map

Spray Zones Map



Habitat: Vertical to sloped rock walls at bases of waterfalls
Water regime: Perennially to seasonally saturated
Water chemistry: Fresh

Plant associations occurring in spray zones have not been sampled in Oregon. However, these habitats have been botanized, and ORBIC is preparing a species list.

Authored by John A. Christy, Wetlands Ecologist, (ORBIC) Oregon Biodiversity Information Center (2012)