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For information on Wisconsin's natural communities, contact:
Ryan O'Connor
Natural Heritage Inventory Ecologist

Algific Talus Slope

State Rank: S1     Global Rank: G2   what are these ranks?


Detailed Community Description from Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin

General natural community overview

Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for Algific Talus Slope in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database.

This rare community is known only from the southwestern corner of Wisconsin's Driftless Area. Algific talus slopes are small and isolated and tend to occur on steep north- or east-facing slopes with a substrate of fractured limestone (dolomite) bedrock that retains ice and emits cold air throughout the growing season. The community is dependent on water entering gaps in the dolomite, freezing in winter, and then slowly melting during the summer months and producing a steady outflow of cold air. Cold microhabitats support and enable the persistence of disjunct northern plant species, and periglacial relicts such as northern monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense) and globally rare terrestrial snails. The woody overstory is often sparse, composed of scattered, small black ash (Fraxinus nigra) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Mountain maple (Acer spicatum), a northern shrub, may be frequent, and extensive beds of bulblet bladder fern (Cystopteris bulbifera) and mosses are characteristic herbs.

Rare animals

Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

The following Species of Greatest Conservation Need are listed according to their level of association with the Algific Talus Slope natural community type, based on the findings in Wisconsin's 2015 Wildlife Action Plan.

Scores: 3 = high association, 2 = moderate association, and 1 = low association. See the key to association scores for complete definitions.

Aquatic and terrestrial snailsScore
Black StriateStriatura ferrea3
Cherrystone DropHendersonia occulta3
Cross VertigoVertigo modesta3
Boreal TopZoogenetes harpa2
Broad-banded ForestsnailAllogona profunda2
Dentate SupercoilParavitrea multidentata2
Hubricht's VertigoVertigo hubrichti2
Wing SnaggletoothGastrocopta procera2
Eastern Flat-whorlPlanogyra asteriscus1
Ribbed StriateStriatura exigua1

Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus3
Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus1
Tricolored BatPerimyotis subflavus1

Gray RatsnakePantherophis spiloides1

Please see Section 2. Approach and Methods of the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Rare plants

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

Scores: 3 = "significantly associated," 2 = "moderately associated," and 1 = "minimally associated."
Scientific Name Common Name Score
Aconitum noveboracense Northern Monkshood 2
Adoxa moschatellina Muskroot 2
Carex media Intermediate Sedge 3
Poa sylvestris Woodland Bluegrass 1


The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for Algific Talus Slope, based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological LandscapeOpportunity
Western Coulee and RidgesMajor

Major (3 on map)
A major opportunity for sustaining the natural community in the Ecological Landscape exists, either because many significant occurrences of the natural community have been recorded in the landscape or major restoration activities are likely to be successful maintaining the community's composition, structure, and ecological function over a longer period of time.

Important (2 on map)
Although the natural community does not occur extensively or commonly in the Ecological Landscape, one to several occurrences do occur and are important in sustaining the community in the state. In some cases, important opportunities may exist because the natural community may be restricted to just one or a few Ecological Landscapes within the state and there may be a lack of opportunities elsewhere.

Present (1 on map)
The natural community occurs in the Ecological Landscape, but better management opportunities appear to exist in other parts of the state.


Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

What are conservation actions?

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for natural communities


Algific Talus Slope Photos

Algific Talus Slope Photo

Algific talus slopes are extremely unusual natural communities, known mostly from the Driftless Area of the Upper Midwest.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

Note: photos are provided to illustrate various examples of natural community types. A single photograph cannot represent the range of variability inherent in a given community type. Some of these photos explicitly illustrate unusual and distinctive community variants. The community photo galleries are a work in progress that we will expand and improve in the future.

Last revised: Tuesday, August 30, 2022