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Title: Small Mammal Exclosure Study (SMES) Vegetation Data from the Chihuahuan Desert Grassland and Shrubland at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico (1995-2009)
This is data for vegetation canopy cover measured from each of the SMES study plots. Vegetation canopy cover was measured from each of the 36 one-meter2 quadrats twice each year. Animal consumers have important roles in ecosystems, determining plant species composition and structure, regulating rates of plant production and nutrient, and altering soil structure and chemistry. The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not the activities of small mammals regulate plant community structure, plant species diversity, and spatial vegetation patterns in Chihuahuan Desert shrublands and grasslands. The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not the activities of small mammals regulate plant community structure, plant species diversity, and spatial vegetation patterns in Chihuahuan Desert shrublands and grasslands. What role if any do indigenous small mammal consumers have in maintaining desertified landscapes in the Chihuahuan Desert? Additionally, how do the effects of small mammals interact with changing climate to affect vegetation patterns over time? This study will provide long-term experimental tests of the roles of consumers on ecosystem pattern and process across a latitudinal climate gradient. The following questions or hypotheses will be addressed. 1) Do small mammals influence patterns of plant species composition and diversity, vegetation structure, and spatial patterns of vegetation canopy cover and biomass in Chihuahuan Desert shrublands and grasslands? Are small mammals keystone species that determine plant species composition and physiognomy of Chihuahuan Desert communities? Do small mammals have a significant role in maintaining the existence of shrub islands and spatial heterogeneity of creosotebush shrub communities? 2) Do small mammals affect the taxonomic composition and spatial pattern of vegetation similarly or differently in grassland communities as compared to shrub communities? How do patterns compare between grassland and shrubland sites, and how do these relatively small scale patterns relate to overall landscape vegetation patterns? 3) Do small mammals interact with short-term (annual) and long-term (decades) climate change to affect temporal changes in vegetation spatial patterns and species composition? 4) Do small mammals interact with other herbivore and granivore consumers enough to affect the species composition and abundances of other consumers such as ants and grasshoppers?  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1655499
NSF-PAR ID:
10424136
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Publisher / Repository:
Environmental Data Initiative
Date Published:
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  5. Abstract

    Grassland‐to‐shrubland state change has been widespread in arid lands globally. Long‐term records at the Jornada Basin USDA‐LTER site in the North American Chihuahuan Desert document the time series of transition from grassland dominance in the 1850s to shrubland dominance in the 1990s. This broadscale change ostensibly resulted from livestock overgrazing in conjunction with periodic drought and represents the classic “grassland‐to‐shrubland” regime shift. However, finer‐scale observations reveal a more nuanced view of this state change that includes transitions from dominance by one shrub functional type to another (e.g., based on leaf habit [evergreen vs. deciduous], N2fixation potential, and drought tolerance). We analyzed the Jornada Basin historic vegetation data using a fine‐scale grid and classified the dominant vegetation in the resulting 890 cells on each of four dates (1858, 1915, 1928, and 1998). This analysis allowed us to quantify on contrasting soil geomorphic units the rate and spatial distribution of: (1) state change from grasslands to shrublands across the Jornada Basin, (2) transitions between shrub functional groups, and (3) transitions from shrub‐to‐grass dominance. Results from our spatially explicit, decadal timescale perspective show that: (1) shrubland ecosystems developing on former grasslands were spatially and temporally more dynamic than has been generally presumed, (2) in some locations, shrublands initially developing on grasslands subsequently transitioned to ecosystems dominated by a different shrub functional type, with these changes in shrub composition likely involving changes in soil properties, and (3) some shrub‐dominated locations have reverted to grass dominance. Accordingly, traditional, broad characterizations of “grassland‐to‐shrubland” state change may be too simplistic. An accounting of these complexities and transitions from one shrub functional group to another is important for projecting state change consequences for ecosystem processes. Understanding the mechanisms, drivers, and influence of interactions between patterns and processes on transitions between shrub states defined by woody plant functional types will be germane to predicting future landscape change.

     
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