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Serpentine Geoecology of Western North AmericaGeology, Soils, and Vegetation$
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Earl B. Alexander, Roger G. Coleman, Todd Keeler-Wolfe, and Susan P. Harrison

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195165081

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195165081.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 12 June 2021

Sierra Motherlode, Domain 2

Sierra Motherlode, Domain 2

14 Sierra Motherlode, Domain 2
Serpentine Geoecology of Western North America

Earl B. Alexander

Roger G. Coleman

Todd Keeler-Wolfe

Susan P. Harrison

Oxford University Press

The Sierra Motherlode domain is in a series of allochthonous terranes, sometimes called the “Foothill Belt,” along the western edge of the north-northwest–south-southeast trending Sierra Nevada, adjacent to the Great Valley of California. It is a discontinuous belt from the southern Sierra Nevada, in Tulare and Fresno counties, to Butte County in the northern Sierra Nevada , but a branch within the belt is practically continuous from El Dorado County about 140 km north to Plumas County at the north end of the range. Cenozoic block faulting has lifted the Sierra Nevada and tilted the mountain range toward the west; therefore the highest elevations are on the east side of the range. Uplift is more pronounced in the southern than in the northern Sierra Nevada. Altitudes range from <200 m adjacent to the Great Valley to more than 4000 m along the crest of the central to southern part of the mountain range. The highest altitudes in the Sierra Motherlode domain are 1939 m (6360 feet) on Red Mountain and 1935 m (6335 feet) on Red Hill in Plumas County, and even higher on some of the granitic plutons that are within the outer limits of the serpentine domain. These plutons were intruded into the allochthonous terranes after the terranes had been accreted onto the continent. Much of the western slope of the northern Sierra Nevada is an undulating to rolling plateau. This plateau is a remnant from the early Tertiary when its surface was deeply weathered to produce lateritic serpentine soils with silica deposited in the subsoils and in fractures in the bedrock (Rice and Cleveland 1955, Rice 1957). The ancient plateau was capped by volcanic flows that produced a practically continuous cover in the northern Sierra Nevada (Durrell 1966). Uplift along the eastern side of the northern part of the Sierra Nevada to initiate its current relief commenced 4 or 5 Ma ago (Wakabayashi and Sawyer 2001). Since the range began to rise a few million years ago, the larger streams flowing across it have cut deep canyons up to about 600 m below the plateau.

Keywords:   antigorite, barrens, calcite, dunite, gabbro, harzburgite, intrusion, jade, limestone, magnesite

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