Vegetation patterns, microtopography and soils on a Chihuahuan desert playa

TitleVegetation patterns, microtopography and soils on a Chihuahuan desert playa
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1990
AuthorsWondzell SM, Cornelius JM, Cunningham GL
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Date Published1990
Accession NumberJRN00133
Call Number00415
Keywordsarticle, articles, ephemeral lakebed, SEE <PLAYA>, journal, journals, microtopography, gilgai, playa, flooding, playa, microtopography, playa, soils, playa, vegetation patterns, soil, playa, topo-edaphic gradient

Spatial patterns of vegetation on an ephemeral lake bed (playa) in the northern Chihuahuan desert were closely correlated with elevation. Distributions of species along a 265 m transect from the center to the edge of the playa showed abrupt boundaries at 110 m and 220 m. These boundaries seem related to the maximum elevation covered with standing water following complete flooding, and to an edaphic boundary between heavy clay soils at the center of the playa and adjacent soils. The complete turnover in species composition across this transect, with an elevation change of only 85 cm, indicates that environmental gradients resulting from flooding and soil development are steep. Vegetative patterns within the lowest part of the playa were patchy, with patch diameters ranging from 2 to 5 m. These patches appear to be produced by differences in the duration and frequency of flooding between small knolls and depressions resulting from gilgai microtopography.