Structure and function of C<sub>3</sub> and C<sub>4</sub> Chihuahuan Desert plant communities. Energy balance components

TitleStructure and function of C3 and C4 Chihuahuan Desert plant communities. Energy balance components
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsDugas W.A., Hicks R.A., Gibbens, Robert P.
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Date PublishedSeptember 1,1996
KeywordsBouteloua eriopoda, desert grasslands, evapo-transpiration, Fluorensia cemua, Larrea trdientata, Pleuraphis mutica, prosopis glandulosa, shrub invasion, soil evaporation

During the past 150 years, the C3 shrubs creosotebush (Larrea tridentata (DC.) Cov.), mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr. var. glandulosa), and tarbush (Flourensia cemua DC.) have invaded extensive areas of former C4 grasslands in deserts of the south-western United States. We measured energy balance components of these grass and shrub communities in the Chihuahuan Desert. Midday net radiation in the P. glandulosa community was about 20% less than that in the others, where it was about equal. Midday soil heat flux was large in all communities and was greater in communities with small leaf areas. Midday and daily latent heat fluxes (or evapo-transpiration rates, ET) were about equal in all communities except the F. cernua community, where they were about 50% greater due to greater leaf area and water supply. The fraction of ET made up of soil evaporation varied from 0·3 to 0·6 and was greater in L. tridentata and P. glandulosa communities. Differences of surface energy balance components of plant communities in this desert environment were generally small and were more related to surface characteristics (e.g. leaf area) and water supply than to photosynthetic pathway or vegetation type.