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Death Valley National Park Plants

Death Valley is one of the hottest and driest places in North America, yet it is home to over 970 species of plants. The diversity of Death Valley's plant communities results partly from the region's location in the Mojave Desert, a zone of tension and overlap between the Great Basin Desert to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south (Kearney and Peebles 1960). This location, combined with the great relief found within the Park, from 282 feet below sea level to 11,049 feet above sea level, supports vegetation typical of three biotic life zones: the lower Sonoran, the Canadian, and the Arctic/Alpine in portions of the Panamint Range (Jepson 1923; Storer and Usinger 1968).

Based on the Munz and Keck (1968) classifications, seven plant communities can be categorized within these life zones, each characterized by dominant vegetation and repesentative of three vegetation types: scrub, desert woodland, and coniferous forest. Microhabitats further subdivide some communities into zones, especially on the valley floor.

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Maine ocean islands provide the only nesting sites for Atlantic puffins in the United States. Eastern Egg Rock in the midcoast region, Seal Island and Matinicus Rock at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, and Machias Seal Island and Petit Manan Island off the downeast coast provide habitat for more than 4,000 puffins each summer.