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The recognition and characterization of aeolian dust in soil contribute to a better understanding of landscape and ecosystem dynamics of drylands. Results of this study show that recently deposited dust, sampled in isolated, mostly high-ground settings, is chemically and mineralogically similar on varied geologic substrates over a large area (15 000 km2) in the Mojave Desert. The silt-plus-clay fraction (fines) on these isolated surfaces is closely alike in magnetic-mineral composition, in contrast to greatly dissimilar magnetic compositions of rock surfaces of vastly different lithologies, on which the fines have accumulated. The fines, thus, are predominantly deposited dust. The amounts of potential nutrients...
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Field and laboratory experiments at Tumamoc Hill, Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A., demonstrated that Ferocactus wislizeni, a common perennial cactus in the northern Sonoran Desert, has a between-year seed bank. In laboratory studies, F. wislizeni seeds lost dormancy during storage at room temperature and had a light requirement for germination. Field experiments suggested that as much as 2% of the annual seed crop might escape post-dispersal predation even when unprotected; where suitable safe sites exist, a higher percentage might escape. Germination of seed recovered monthly from above- and below-ground components of an artificial seed bank showed that seeds can survive at least 18 months in and on the soil. Seed banks...
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Differences in resource availability and quality along environmental gradients are important influences contributing to intraspecific variation in body size, which influences numerous life-history traits. Here, we examined variation in body size and sexual size dimorphism (SSD) in relation to temperature, seasonality, and precipitation among 10 populations located throughout Arizona of the western diamond-backed rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). Specifically, in our analyses we addressed the following questions: (i) Are adult males larger in cooler, wetter areas? (ii) Does female body size respond differently to environmental variation? (iii) Is seasonality a better predictor of body size variation? (iv) Is SSD positively...
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Using inventory data and input from natural resource professionals, we developed a classification system that categorizes conservation potential for montane natural springs. This system contains 18 classes based on the presence of a riparian patch, wetland species, surface water, and evidence of human activity. We measured physical and biological components of 276 montane springs in the Oscura Mountains above 1450 m and the San Andres Mountains above 1300 m in southern New Mexico. Two of the 18 classes were not represented during the inventory, indicating the system applies to conditions beyond the montane springs in our study area. The class type observed most often (73 springs) had a riparian patch, perennial...
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Biological soil crusts, consisting of cyanobacteria, green algae, lichens, and mosses, are important in stabilizing soils in semi-arid and arid lands. Integrity of these crusts is compromised by compressional disturbances such as foot, vehicle, or livestock traffic. Using a portable wind tunnel, we found threshold friction velocities (TFVs) of undisturbed crusts well above wind forces experienced at these sites; consequently, these soils are not vulnerable to wind erosion. However, recently disturbed soils or soils with less well-developed crusts frequently experience wind speeds that exceed the stability thresholds of the crusts. Crustal biomass is concentrated in the top 3 mm of soils. Sandblasting by wind can...
Harvest methods used to estimate plant biomass can be replaced by non-destructive methods, which are cost effective and allow for multiple estimates of biomass in the same location ([Catchpole and Catchpole, 1993] and [Sala and Austin, 2000]). Flombaum and Sala (2007) developed a method based on a model relating plant cover and aboveground biomass of dominant grass species of the Patagonian steppe. The study enlarged the range of cover and biomass by removing portions of individual tussock grasses and obtained significant relationships between cover and biomass data for all categories (Flombaum and Sala, 2007). Mont�s (2009) pointed out that reducing the area of a tuft could lead to an overestimation of the relationship...
The alien grass Bromus tectorum dominates stable annual-plant communities that have replaced native shrub-perennial grass communities over much of the semi-arid western United States. We conducted field competition experiments between B. tectorum and a native grass, Elymus elymoides, on two sites to determine the effects of B. tectorum competition on perennial grasses, and the role of B. tectorum competition in the stability of B. tectorum-dominated communities. B. tectorum competition acting on seedling-stage E. elymoides plants greatly reduced first-year relative growth rates and biomass which, in turn, reduced second-year survival, biomass, and flowering. However, B. tectorum competition acting on older E. elymoides...
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Biological soil crusts are regarded as an indicator of healthy landscapes. To understand the response of biological soil crusts to grazing in northern sagebrush steppe, we examined nine Artemisia-dominated sites in Wyoming where livestock have been excluded for 32–45 years. Using two common sampling methods (20 m line transects and 0.25 m2 quadrats) we determined biological soil crust cover and richness inside and outside exclosures. Total biological soil crust cover did not differ inside and outside the exclosures at any of the nine sites, regardless of monitoring method. Cover of biological soil crusts using the transect method ranged from 2% to 8% inside and 1% to 6% outside the exclosure. Cover of biological...
This study determined the influence differing soil surface textures and vegetative covers have on the magnitude of wind erosion in a semi-arid environment. The study was conducted from March 2000 through late April 2000 on the Jornada Experimental Range approximately 37 km north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Big Spring Number Eight (BSNE) samplers placed at nine locations, collected particulates in suspension and saltation at heights of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 cm from the following surfaces: loose sand, thick silty physical crust, flaky physical crust, weak desert pavement, and a forb/grass ground cover. BSNE samplers collected the largest amounts of sediment were collected in areas of loose sand and at sites directly...
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Identification of >40 taxa of plant macrofossils in 14 rodent (Abrocoma) middens collected from 2800 to 3590 m elevation at the latitude of Arica, Chile (18°S) provide snapshots of vegetation in the northernmost Atacama Desert over the past 3000 years. Midden floras show considerable stability throughout the late Holocene, which may be due in part to the broad elevational ranges of many perennial species and midden insensitivity to changes in plant community structure. The greatest variability is found in annuals in the Prepuna, a climatically sensitive zone. This variability, however might also arise from the brevity of midden depositional episodes. As the first midden record from the Arica-Parinacota Region (Chile's...
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This paper presents the results of a multi-scale investigation of environmental change in the Old Peanut Basin of Senegal throughout the 20th century. Based on historical accounts, ethnographies, aerial photos, satellite images, field and household surveys as well as various participatory research activities with farmers in selected villages, the study attempts to make explicit layered scales of analysis, both temporally and spatially. It shows that, despite some general trends of resource degradation in the Old Peanut Basin, local farming systems have embarked on different pathways of change to adapt to their evolving environment. It also illustrates that high diversity with respect to soil fertility management...
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Vegetation sampling on 11 debris flow terraces in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, U.S.A., showed that plant assemblages changed as age of surface increased. The terraces ranged in age from about 5 to about 3100 years. There were distinct differences among sites in the life history characteristics of the dominant plants. Young terraces (5-55 years) were dominated by short-lived plants that had high reproductive potential. Older surfaces were dominated by species with longer life-spans and lower reproductive potential. Density and cover of long-lived species increased with age of surface; for short-lived plants, density was inversely related to surface age. Species composition was also correlated with site age;...
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The Mojave Desert, which lies between the Great Basin Desert in the north and the Sonoran Desert in the south, covers an estimated 114 478–130 464 km2 of the south-western United States and includes parts of the states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and California, with the amount of land mass dependent on the definition (Fig. 1; Rowlands et al., 1982; McNab and Avers, 1994; Bailey, 1995; Groves et al., 2000). This desert is sufficiently diverse to be subdivided into five regions: northern, south-western, central, south-central, and eastern (Rowlands et al., 1982). It is a land of extremes both in topography and climate. Elevations range from below sea level at Death Valley National Park to 3633 m on Mt. Charleston in...
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Biological soil crusts (hereafter, “biocrusts”) dominate soil surfaces in nearly all dryland environments. To better understand the influence of water content on carbon (C) exchange, we assessed the ability of dual-probe heat-pulse (DPHP) sensors, installed vertically and angled, to measure changes in near-surface water content. Four DPHP sensors were installed in each of two research plots (eight sensors total) that differed by temperature treatment (control and heated). Responses were compared to horizontally installed water content measurements made with three frequency-domain reflectometry (FDR) sensors in each plot at 5-cm depth. The study was conducted near Moab, Utah, from April through September 2009. Results...
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Knowledge of the factors affecting the vigor of desert riparian trees is important for their conservation and management. I used multiple regression to assess effects of streamflow and climate (12–14 years of data) or climate alone (up to 60 years of data) on radial growth of clonal narrowleaf cottonwood (Populus angustifolia), a foundation species in the arid, Closed Basin portion of the San Luis Valley, Colorado. I collected increment cores from trees (14–90 cm DBH) at four sites along each of Sand and Deadman creeks (total N = 85), including both perennial and ephemeral reaches. Analyses on trees <110 m from the stream channel explained 33–64% of the variation in standardized growth index (SGI) over the period...
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We studied recovery of 21 perennial plant species along a severely disturbed aqueduct corridor in a Larrea tridentata-Ambrosia dumosa plant alliance in the Mojave Desert 36 years after construction. The 97-m wide corridor contained a central dirt road and buried aqueduct pipeline. We established transects at 0 m (road verge), 20 m and 40 m into the disturbance corridor, and at 100 m in undisturbed habitat (the control). Although total numbers of shrubs per transect did not vary significantly with distance from the verge, canopy cover of shrubs, species richness, and species diversity were higher in the control than at the verge and other distances. Canopy cover of common shrubs (Ericameria nauseosa, Ambrosia salsola,...
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Rates of soil disruption from hikers and vehicle traffic are poorly known, particularly for arid landscapes. We conducted an experiment in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (ORPI) in western Arizona, USA, on an air-dry very fine sandy loam that is considered to be vulnerable to disruption. We created variable-pass tracks using hikers, an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), and a four-wheel drive vehicle (4WD) and measured changes in cross-track topography, penetration depth, and bulk density. Hikers (one pass = 5 hikers) increased bulk density and altered penetration depth but caused minimal surface disruption up to 100 passes; a minimum of 10 passes were required to overcome surface strength of this dry soil. Both ATV...
Biological soil crusts, consisting of cyanobacteria, green algae, lichens, and mosses, are important in stabilizing soils in semi-arid and arid lands. Integrity of these crusts is compromised by compressional disturbances such as foot, vehicle, or livestock traffic. Using a portable wind tunnel, we found threshold friction velocities (TFVs) of undisturbed crusts well above wind forces experienced at these sites; consequently, these soils are not vulnerable to wind erosion. However, recently disturbed soils or soils with less well-developed crusts frequently experience wind speeds that exceed the stability thresholds of the crusts. Crustal biomass is concentrated in the top 3 mm of soils. Sandblasting by wind can...
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We investigated species- and community-level responses of squamate reptiles and granivorous small mammals to feral-horse grazing in two elevational strata across nine mountain ranges of the western Great Basin, USA. Although mammal species richness did not differ between horse-occupied and horse-removed sites, occupied sites possessed less community completeness (biotic integrity) and 1.1–7.4 times greater deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) than removed sites. In opposite fashion, horse-removed sites possessed greater reptile species richness and tended towards greater abundance for seven of nine species, yet unequal species pools across sites dictated that community completeness did not differ statistically between...
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Soil surfaces dominated by cyanobacteria and cyanolichens (such as Collema sp.) are widespread in deserts of the world. The influence of these biological soil crusts on the uptake of bioessential elements is reported for the first time for six seed plants of the deserts of Utah. This sample almost doubles the number of species for which the influence of biological soil crusts on mineral uptake of associated vascular plants is known. These new case studies, and others previously published, demonstrate that cyanobacterial or cyanobacteria- Collema crusts significantly alter uptake by plants of many bioessential elements. In studies now available, these crusts always increase the N content of associated seed plants....


map background search result map search result map Biological soil crusts in grazed and ungrazed Wyoming sagebrush steppe Biological soil crusts in grazed and ungrazed Wyoming sagebrush steppe