Long-term influences of shrub removal and lagomorph exclusion on Chihuahuan Desert vegetation dynamics

TitleLong-term influences of shrub removal and lagomorph exclusion on Chihuahuan Desert vegetation dynamics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsHavstad K, Gibbens, Robert P., Knorr C.A., Murray L.W.
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Volume42
Pagination155-166
Date PublishedJuly 1, 1999
Accession NumberJRN00279
ARIS Log Number084013
Keywordsblack grama, Bouteloua eriopoda, creosotebush, desert ecology, Larrea tridentata
Abstract

Cover of perennial species in long-term experimental plots in a creosotebush (Larrea tridentata Sess. & Moc. Ex DC.) dominated community in the Chihuahuan Desert was monitored for 56 years. Sixteen 21·3×21·3 m plots were established in 1938–39 to evaluate the effects of lagomorph exclusion and shrub removal. Major dominant shrubs were individually severed at ground level and removed by hand in 1939, and this process was repeated after measuring plant cover in 1947, 1956, 1960, 1967, 1989, and 1995. Lagomorphs were excluded with poultry wire fencing. Shrub removal increased (p≤0·05) the basal cover of two major desert grass species, black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda Torr.) and spike dropseed (Sporobolus contractus A.S. Hitch.) between 1939 and 1995, but differences were not evident until 50 years after initial treatment. Temporal effects of lagomorph exclusion were less pronounced than shrub removal. Clearly, shrub dominance has an extremely important and lasting role in determining vegetation community structure in this arid environment, even when above-ground shrub structures are periodically removed.

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DOI10.1006/jare.1999.0516