Long-term vegetation response to mesquite removal in Desert Grassland

M. P. McClaran, D. L. Angell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Forty-six years of vegetation response to mesquite removal at dry, low elevation sites on the Santa Rita Experimental Range in southern Arizona was only slightly different than the vegetation dynamics where mesquite trees were left intact. Only the density of threeawn grass species (Aristida spp.) was greater in the mesquite removal areas: and that difference persisted even after the cover of mesquite was no longer different between treatment and control areas. Cover of shrubs and perennial grasses, and density of all other perennial grasses did not differ between mesquite treatments throughout the study period. Mesquite cover on treated areas was not different than untreated areas 40 years after tree removal. The long-term results support the interpretation that vegetation dynamics at these dry locations, are not limited by the abundance of neighbouring mesquite. Alternatively, mesquite abundance is self-limiting at levels less than would influence grass abundance and precipitation anomalies may override any effects of neighbouring mesquite. Practically, these results suggest that areas with {less-than or slanted equal to}350 mm year-1 of annual precipitation and <20% mesquite cover may have very little potential for increasing grass abundance through the removal of mesquite trees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)686-697
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Volume66
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006

Keywords

  • Balanced competition
  • Burroweed
  • Santa Rita Experimental Range
  • Woody plant-grass coexistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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