Establishment and effects of establishment of creosotebush, <i>Larrea tridentata</i>, on a Chihuahuan Desert watershed

TitleEstablishment and effects of establishment of creosotebush, Larrea tridentata, on a Chihuahuan Desert watershed
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsWhitford WG, Nielson R., de Soyza A.
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Date PublishedJanuary 1, 2001
ARIS Log Number150383
KeywordsChihuahuan Desert, creosotebush, effects, establishment, Larrea tridentata
AbstractCreosotebush (Larrea tridentata) seedlings were planted in plots that were irrigated, plots that were irrigated and fertilized with ammonium nitrate, and plots that were not amended in three plant communities on a Chihuahuan Desert watershed: ungrazed black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda) grassland, creosotebush shrubland, and overgrazed grassland. No seedlings were planted in one-half of the area of each plot. No seedlings survived in the black grama grassland or the creosotebush shrubland 2 years after planting. Growth of established creosotebush shrubs was highest in plots with the lowest grass cover. Fifteen years after the seedlings were planted in the overgrazed grassland, the area under the shrubs was nearly devoid of perennial grasses and forbs. The aggregate stability of the soils under the established creosotebush shrubs was significantly lower than the soils in the unplanted split-half of the plots. Electrical conductivity, calcium, and nitrate were significantly lower in soils under shrubs than soils in the unplanted split-half of the plots. There were also significant reductions in densities of annual plants growing under the shrubs than in the unplanted split-half of the plots. Successful establishment of creosotebush in desert grasslands is dependent upon the presence of large patches of soil with no perennial plant cover. Intense grazing by domestic livestock creates microsites and landscape characteristics favorable for seed dispersal, germination and establishment of creosotebush. Soil changes resulting from shrub establishment reduce the probability of reestablishing perennial grasses in creosotebush-dominated shrubland.