|Title||Burrowing activities of kangaroo rats and patterns in plant species dominance at a shortgrass steppe-desert grassland ecotone|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||1999|
|Authors||Fields M.J., Coffin D.P., Gosz J.R.|
|Journal||Journal of Vegetation Science|
|ARIS Log Number||091799|
|Keywords||Bouteloua, Chihuahuan Desert, Dipodomys spectabilis, disturbance, dominant species, kangaroo rat|
Our objective was to evaluate the effects of burrowing activities by banner-tail kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis Merriam) on plant community structure and species dominance for two patch types at the ecotone between shortgrass steppe and desert grassland in New Mexico, USA. 10 mounds produced by kangaroo rats were selected in patches dominated by Bouteloua gracilis (the dominant in shortgrass steppe communities) and 10 mounds were selected in patches dominated by B. eriopoda (the dominant in Chihuahuan desert grasslands). Plant cover and density by species were sampled from three locations associated with each mound: the mound proper, the edge of the mound in the transition area, and the off-mound vegetation. Similar cover of B. eriopoda for the edges of mounds in both patch types indicates the ability of this species to respond to animal disturbances regardless of the amount of cover in the surrounding undisturbed vegetation. By contrast, cover of B. gracilis was low for all mounds and mound edges in patches dominated by this species. Much higher cover of B. eriopoda on mound edges compared to the undisturbed vegetation in B. gracilis-dominated patches indicates that kangaroo rats have important positive effects on this species. Lower cover of perennial grasses and higher cover of forbs, shrubs, and succulents on the edges of mounds in B. eriopoda-dominated patches compared to patches dominated by B. gracilis indicate the importance of surrounding vegetation to plant responses on disturbed areas.