The site encompasses 5,138 hectares (12,696 acres) of mixed conifer and red fir forest, ranging in elevation from 1,990 to 2,807 m (6,529 – 9,209ft). The varied terrain is typical of the Sierra Nevada, with rugged mountains, meadows and prominent granite outcrops. TEAK has been designated as one of two relocatable terrestrial sites for the Pacific Southwest domain. The core aquatic site, Teakettle Creek, is just south of the terrestrial site.
The climate is typical of the Sierra Nevada, with hot, dry summers and fairly mild, wet winters.
The wet season begins in October or November, and most annual precipitation comes in the form of snow during the winter and early spring, with winter snowpack often persisting into late April or May. Temperatures in December through February range from -3 to 12 °C (26 to 54 °F), with an average around 5 °C (41°F). Frost is common beginning in mid-October through May or early June. Spring is cool and mild, with average temperatures around 9 °C (48 °F). Temperatures in June through August range from 10 to 29 °C (50 to 84 °F) with an average of 20 °C (68 °F).
Site History and Management
Lower Teakettle is part of the Sierra National Forest, federal public land administered by the U.S. Forest Service. The land is managed for multiple uses and benefits, ranging from renewable resources, such as timber and forage, to recreation and research. Targeted research addresses a range of concerns and provides much of the direction in resource management.
Site-specific Topics The southernmost portion of TEAK overlaps with the Teakettle Experimental Forest, managed by the Pacific Southwest Research Station, which represents the Forest Service Research and Development (FS R&D). Although research at the Experimental Forest historically focused on watershed management and climate science, more recent topics have investigated the effects of fire and thinning treatments on mixed conifer ecosystems. Long-term databases include streamflow and sedimentation, bird census data, and snag distribution and turnover. The Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory maintains a flux tower at Shorthair Creek, the subalpine belt of a tower transect which also includes infrastructure at SJER and SOAP. The Critical Zone Observatory collects data on water, carbon and nutrient cycling across the rain-snow transition in the southern Sierra Nevada.
The National Land Cover Database (NLCD) classifies Lower Teakettle as evergreen forest and shrub scrub vegetation types. At a finer scale, it is a mosaic of closed canopy pine and fir forest, shrub patches, and areas of exposed rock and shallow soil, with occasional wet meadows
punctuating the tree cover. Dominant tree species include red and white fir (Abies magnifica and Abies concolor, respectively), Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). Stand structure is diverse, with active recruitment and extensive coarse woody debris. Although dense tree cover limits understory shrubs, bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens) often grows on forested slopes. Exposed rock and shallow soils support other shrub species, such mountain whitethorn (Ceanothus cordulatus), greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula) and pinemat manzanita (Arctostaphylos nevadensis). Open pine and fir forests provide habitat for more shade-tolerant herbaceous plants, whereas meadows, streams and patches of shallow soil accommodate a greater diversity of native grasses, graminoids, and forbs.
The majority of the site consists of granitic soils common to the Sierra Nevada, primarily from the Cagwin series with smaller contributions from the Sirretta, Stecum and Umpa families, among others. The most common soils have a coarse, sandy texture and are moderately deep with poor water retention. Exposed granitic outcrops are characteristic of the area. There are a few small lakes or ponds at higher elevation in the northern portion of the site, and wet meadows occur intermittently throughout. Perennial and seasonal streams drain into the North Fork of the Kings River.