Vegetation and soil patterns on a Chihuahuan Desert bajada

TitleVegetation and soil patterns on a Chihuahuan Desert bajada
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1979
AuthorsStein RA, Ludwig JA
JournalThe American Midland Naturalist
Date Published1979
Call Number00318
Keywordsarticle, articles, biogeochemistry,soil patterns, journal, journals, soil geomorphology, soil patterns, soil, nitrogen, transect,soil patterns, transect,vegetation patterns
AbstractVegetation and soils were sampled along a 1100-m transect on a bajada in southern New Mexico to determine if present vegetation patterns can be interpreted from soil patterns. Species cover was measured in 66 plots, each 50.3 m2. Of these, 22 were randomly chosen as sites for soil pits, which were described and analyses conducted on the top (A1) horizon. The plots were clustered into four communities: Erioneuron pulchellum desert grassland transition, Larrea tridentata desert shrub, Bouteloua curtipendula semidesert grassland and Bouteloua eriopoda desert grassland. Soils of these communities differ significantly in pH, Mg, organic carbon and total nitrogen. These soil chemistry differences could be due to relatively recent changes from Bouteloua grassland and Larrea shrubland, as indicated by our dead shrub data and as documented for many bajadas in southern New Mexico. However, soil series and geomorphic surface patterns, which are not readily affected by recent vegetation changes, suggest that Larrea may always have been an important shrub on shallow calcareous soils (of erosional surfaces) in southern New Mexico. Its importance as a mosaic type in the once extensive desert grasslands has probably been underestimated.