Tag Archive for: Utah Geological

Plants can enlighten geologists as to the rock beneath. Geobotany, also called phytogeography, is the scientific study of the distribution of plants.

Climate is considered the primary control on plant life, but within a particular climatic region the rock beneath soil—known as the parent material of soil—is typically the key factor influencing the vegetation growing above. Rock ultimately determines soil moisture characteristics, nutrient availability, and concentrations of essential elements.

Therefore, certain plants are associated with specific rock types. Limestone, dolomite, shale, gypsum, chert, gabbro, rock salt, and ultramafic rocks (e.g., dunite, peridotite, serpentinite), for example, are known for their distinctive floras. Since before the advent of agriculture humans have used plants as a guide to find sought-after rocks and minerals. Today, the methodologies of geobotany are still applicable, practical, and even cost-effective to the geologist.

Dramatic changes in vegetation can occur with changes in geology. In mountain ranges of the Great Basin, big sagebrush growing on sandstone abruptly transitions to bristlecone pine on dolomite. The distribution of the California poppy in Arizona closely correlates with copper mineralization, which in turn corresponds with fault lines.








Among the more commonly asked questions we receive at the Utah Geological Survey (UGS) are those dealing with the correct names of Utah’s geographic features.

Perhaps the best tool for answering these questions is a searchable database established and maintained by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This database, called the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), is available online at geonames.usgs. gov.

Following the American Civil War, a surge of exploration, mining, and settlement of western territories created many inconsistencies and contradictions in geographic names, which became a serious problem for surveyors, map makers, and scientists.

To address this problem, President Benjamin Harrison signed an executive order that created the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in 1890 (the current form of the board was established by a 1947 law). Technology, such as geographic information systems, global positioning systems, and the Internet increases the need for standardized data on geographic names, but it also makes accessing that data quick and easy through the GNIS.