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  • 1
    ISSN: 1573-2959
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
    Notes: Abstract Studies of rainfall partitioning by shrubs, responses of shrub-dominated ecosystems to herbicide treatment, and experiments using drought and supplemental rainfall were conducted to test the hypothesis that the shrub-dominated ecosystems that have replaced desert grasslands are resistant and resilient to disturbance. Between 16 and 25% of the intercepted rainfall is channelized to deep soil storage by stemflow and root channelization. Stemflow water is nutrient enriched and contributes to the “islands of fertility” that develop under desert shrubs. Drought and rainfall augmentation experiments during the growing season after 5 consecutive years of summer drought found that (1) growth of creosotebushes, Larrea tridentata, was not significantly affected, (2) perennial grasses and forbs disappeared on droughted plots, (3) nitrogen mineralization increased in the short term, and (4) densities and biomass of spring annual plants increased on the droughted plots. Doubling summer rainfall for 5 consecutive years had less-significant effects. Coppice dunes treated with herbicide in 1979 to kill mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) had the same frequency of occurrence of the shrub as the untreated dunes when remeasured in 1993. These data indicate that the shrub-dominated ecosystems persist because they are resistant and resilient to climatic and anthropogenic stresses.
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  • 2
    ISSN: 1573-2959
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
    Notes: Abstract Ecosystems, despite their diversity, respond to stress in similar ways. The major pressures which cause the transformation of systems from healthy states to pathological states are classified into four groups: physical restructuring, overharvesting, waste residuals, and the introduction of non-native species. Signs of Ecosystem Distress Syndrome (EDS) are briefly examined in three contrasting ecosystems: desert grasslands, the Great Lakes, and the Baltic Sea. The issue is raised as to the difficulty in discerning between healthy ecosystems, recovering from a natural disturbance, and those ecosystems that have lost their original resilience due to anthropogenic stress. Knowledge of site history and a rigourous monitoring program are important in the evaluation of EDS. An assessment of how ecosystem services are affected is indicative of the consequences to the human component of ecosystems. Management strategies which are employed to mitigate the signs of EDS are usually initiated after resilience is lost or the ecosystem has transformed to an alternate, stress-induced, stable state. It is proposed that preventive strategies measure signs of EDS that serve as early warning signals, combined with "fitness tests" that measure ecosystem response to natural perturbations. The fitness test for ecosystems is based on the premise that unstressed systems are more resilient to natural disturbances than stressed systems.
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  • 3
    ISSN: 1573-2959
    Keywords: environmental stressors ; exposure indicators
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
    Notes: Abstract The relative abundance of ant species was measured by pit-fall trapping at 44 sites in southern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, U.S.A.. Sites were selected for study based on documentation of a history of disturbance or protection from disturbance, exposure to varying intensities of livestock grazing, dominance by an exotic species of plant and vegetation change resulting from disturbance or restoration efforts. Ant community composition, relative abundances of species, and species richness were the same on disturbed and undisturbed sites. None of the metrics based on hypothesized responses of ants to disturbance clearly distinguished between disturbed and undisturbed sites. Ant communities on sites where restoration efforts have resulted in distinct differences in vegetative cover and composition were similar to the ant communities on degraded unrehabilitated sites on the same soil type. Ant communities in riparian cottonwood gallery forests in Arizona and New Mexico were similar but differed from the assemblages in exotic salt cedar and native ash riparian woodlands. Ant species exhibited remarkable resistance to human-induced disturbances in these rangeland areas. In grasslands dominated by the South African grass, Eragrostis lehmanniana Nees, large seed harvesting ants, Pogonomyrmex spp., were greatly reduced in abundance compared to native grasslands. Other ant metrics were not different in E. lehmanniana grasslands and native grasslands. We conclude that ants cannot be used as indicators of exposure to stress, ecosystem health or of rehabilitation success on rangeland ecosystems. Ants are also not useful indicators of faunal biodiversity in rangeland ecosystems.
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  • 4
    ISSN: 1573-2959
    Keywords: GIS ; multitemporal analysis ; NDVI ; rangelandcondition ; remote sensing
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
    Notes: Abstract Coarse-scale, multitemporal satellite image data were evaluated as a tool for detecting variation in vegetation productivity, as a potential indicator of change in rangeland condition in the western U.S. The conterminous U.S. Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) biweekly composite data set was employed using the six-year time series 1989–1994. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) image bands for the state of New Mexico were imported into a Geographic Information System (GIS) for analysis with other spatial data sets. Averaged NDVI was calculated for each year, and a series of regression analyses were performed using one year as the baseline. Residuals from the regression line indicated 14 significant areas of NDVI change: two with lower NDVI, and 11 with higher NDVI. Rangeland management changes, cross-country military training activities, and increases in irrigated cropland were among the identified causes of change.
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  • 5
    ISSN: 1573-2959
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
    Notes: Abstract We examined the feasibility of using changes in spatial patterns of ants-distribution on experimental plots as an indicator of response to environmental stress. We produced contour maps based on relative abundances of the three most common genera of ants based on pit-fall trap captures. Relative abundance of Conomyrma spp. decreased, relative abundance of Solenopsis spp. increased, and relative abundance of Pogonomyrmex spp. remained relatively unchanged. The contour maps showed long-term changes in foraging activity and/or distribution of colonies of ants in response to grazing by domestic livestock. This study demonstrated that analysis of spatial patterns of ant activity derived from relative abundances of ants in pit-fall traps provided interpretable data for developing an indicator of exposure to ecosystem stress.
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  • 6
    ISSN: 1573-2959
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
    Notes: Abstract We studied indicators of rangeland health on benchmark sites with long, well documented records of protection from stress by domestic livestock or histories of environmental stress and vegetation change. We measured ecosystem properties (metrics) that were clearly linked to ecosystem processes. We focused on conservation of soil and water as key processes in healthy ecosystems, and on maintenance of biodiversity and productivity as important functions of healthy ecosystems. Measurements from which indicators of rangeland health were derived included: sizes of unvegetated patches, cover and species composition of perennial grasses, cover and species composition of shrubs and herbaceous perennials, soil slaking, and abundance and species composition of the bird fauna. Indicators that provided an interpretable range of values over the gradient from irreversibly degraded sites to healthy sites included: bare patch index, cover of long-lived grasses, palatability index, and weighted soil surface stability index. Indicators for which values above a threshold may serve as an indicator of rangeland health include: cover of plant species toxic to livestock, cover of exotic species, and cover of increaser species. Several other indicator metrics were judged not sensitive nor interpretable. Examples of application of rangeland health indicators to evaluate the success of various restoration efforts supported the contention that a suite of indicators are required to assess rangeland health. Bird species diversity and ant species diversity were not related to the status of the sample site and were judged inadequate as indicators of maintenance of biodiversity.
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  • 7
    ISSN: 1573-2959
    Keywords: Soil and water retention ; bare patch size ; percent bare soil ; grass ; shrub ; remote sensing
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
    Notes: Abstract The most important function of watersheds in the western U.S. is the capacity to retain soil and water, thereby providing stability in hydrologic head and minimizing stream sediment loads. Long-term soil and water retention varies directly with vegetation cover. Data on ground cover and plant species composition were collected from 129 sites in the Rio Grande drainage of south-central New Mexico. This area was previously assessed by classification of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometry (AVHRR) imagery. The classification of irreversibly degraded sites failed to identify most of the severely degraded sites based on size of bare patches and 35% of the sites classified as degraded were healthy based on mean bare patch size and vegetation cover. Previous research showed that an index of unvegetated soil (bare patch size and percent of ground without vegetative cover) was the most robust indicator of the soil and water retention function. Although the regression of mean bare patch size on percent bare ground was significant (p 〈 0.001), percent bare ground accounted for only 11% of the variability in bare patch size. Therefore bare patch size cannot be estimated from data on percent bare ground derived from remote sensing. At sites with less than 25% grass cover, and on sites with more than 15% shrub cover, there were significant relationships between percent bare soil and mean bare patch size (p 〈 0.05). Several other indicators of ecosystem health were related to mean bare patch size: perennial plant species richness (r = 0.6, p 〈 0.0001), percent cover of increaser species (r = 0.5, p 〈 0.0001) and percent cover of forage useable by livestock (r = 0.62, p 〈 0.0001). There was no relationship between bare patch size and cover of species that are toxic to livestock. In order to assess the ability of western rangeland watersheds to retain soil and water using remote sensing, it will be necessary to detect and estimate sizes of bare patches ranging between at least 0.5 m in diameter to several meters in diameter.
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  • 8
    ISSN: 1573-2959
    Keywords: AVHRR imagery ; coppice dunes ; desert rangelands ; irreversible degraded ; regional classification
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
    Notes: Abstract Considerable evidence documents that certain changes in vegetation and soils result in irreversibly degraded rangeland ecosystems. We used Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery to develop calibration patterns of change in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) over the growing season for selected sites for which we had ground data and historical data characterizing these sites as irreversibly degraded. We used the NDVI curves for these training sites to classify and map the irreversibly degraded rangelands in southern New Mexico. We composited images into four year blocks: 1988–1991, 1989–1992, and 1990–1993. The overlap in pixels classified as irreversibly degraded ranged from 42.6% to 84.3% in year block comparisons. Quantitative data on vegetation composition and cover were collected at 13 sites within a small portion of the study area. Wide coverage reconnaissance of boundaries between vegetation types was also conducted for comparisons with year block maps. The year block 1988–1991 provided the most accurate delineation of degraded areas. The rangelands of southern New Mexico experienced above average precipitation from 1990–1993. The above average precipitation resulted in spatially variable productivity of ephemeral weedy plants on the training sites and degraded rangelands which resulted in much smaller areas classified as irreversibly degraded. We selected imagery for a single year, 1989, which was characterized by the absence of spring annual plant production in order to eliminate the confounding effect of reflectance from annual weeds. That image analysis classified more than 20% of the rangelands as irreversibly degraded because areas with shrub-grass mosaic were included in the degraded classification. The single year image included more than double the area classified as irreversibly degraded by the year blocks. AVHRR imagery can be used to make triage assessments of irreversibly degraded rangeland but such assessment requires understanding productivity patterns and variability across the landscapes of the region and careful selection of the years from which imagery is chosen.
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  • 9
    Electronic Resource
    Electronic Resource
    Springer
    Biodiversity and conservation 5 (1996), S. 185-195 
    ISSN: 1572-9710
    Keywords: diversity ; functional groups ; keystone species ; microarthropods ; nematodes ; protozoans ; terntites ; anis
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Biology
    Notes: The importance of soil biota in maintaining ecosytem integrity is examined by a review of studies of soil processes and soil biota in arid ecosystems. In decomposition and mineralization processes, there is a temporal succession of microarthropod and nematode species. Tydeid mites are keystone species in the early stages of decomposition. Soil pore neck size variation affects the spatial distribution of soil biota and requires that species differ in size to provide efficient processing of organic matter. In arid ecosystems, the sub-set of soil biota that is active at any point in time is determined by the soil water potential and soil temperature. The structure of soil microarthropod assemblages is similar in several arid regions of the world and abundance and diversity are directly related to quantity of litter accumulations and soil organic matter. The unique life histories and behavioural characteristics of desert soil macrofauna (termites and ants) determine the effects of these organisms on soil properties and soil formation. The soil biota, by affecting the spatial and temporal distribution of essential sesources (water and nutrients), are essential to the maintenance of the ecosystem integrity of arid ecosystems.
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  • 10
    ISSN: 1432-0789
    Keywords: Larrea tridentata ; Simulated rainfall ; Precipitation exclusion ; Soil drying effects ; Analysis of covariance ; Chihuahan Desert ; Mineralization rate ; Field capacity
    Source: Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
    Topics: Biology , Geosciences , Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
    Notes: Abstract Irrigation and rain-out shelters were used to simulate precipitation patterns of wet and dry years in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. Irrigation provided approximately double the long-term average monthly precipitation. Rain was excluded during the wet season, July-October, to simulate a dry year. N net mineralization in laboratory incubations was undectable at calculated water potentials less than -1 MPa. Witb increasing moisture, mineralization gradually rose to the highest observed rates near field capacity. There was no mineralization maximum at moisture contents below field capacity. Irrigation significantly increased the water potential and rainfall exclusion reduced water potentials to less than-8 MPa. The general absence of important irrigation effects may have resulted from the high natural precipitation during the experiment or because irrigation inputs were insufficient to increase microbial activity during very dry periods. Precipitation exclusion reduced ion capture during the warm-wet season. After allowing precipitation inputs to resume, NH 4 + -N capture was increased in the cool-dry seasons of both 1987–1988 and 1988–1989. NH 4 + -N capture more than doubled that predicted from the overall covariance of moisture input and ion capture, suggesting increased availability of N. An unusually hot, dry period in May and June 1989 was followed by a threeto fourfold increase in the warm-wet season NO 3 − +NO2−N capture compared to 1988. These data suggest that short droughts of about 3 months in length (both simulated and natural) increased N availability relative to moisture availability.
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