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Desert grasslands, which are very sensitive to external drivers like climate change, are areas affected by rapid land degradation processes. In many regions of the world the common form of land degradation involves the rapid encroachment of woody plants into desert grasslands. This process, thought to be irreversible and sustained by biophysical feedbacks of global desertification, results in the heterogeneous distribution of vegetation and soil resources. Most of these shrub-grass transition systems at the desert margins are prone to disturbances such as fires, which affect the interactions between ecological, hydrological, and land surface processes. Here we investigate the effect of prescribed fires on the landscape...
Shrub encroachment in arid and semiarid rangelands, a worldwide phenomenon, results in a heterogeneous landscape characterized by a mosaic of nutrient-depleted barren soil bordered by nutrient-enriched shrubby areas known as “fertile islands.� Even though shrub encroachment is considered as a major contributor to rangeland degradation, little is known about mechanisms favoring the reversibility of the early stages of this process. Here we synthesize the interactions between fires and soil erosion processes, and the implications of these interactions for management of rangelands. The burning of shrub vegetation develops relatively high levels of soil hydrophobicity. This fire-induced water repellency was shown...
Encroachment of the shrub Prosopis glandulosa Torr. (honey mesquite) into semi-arid grasslands is a serious concern in the south-western United States, yet little is known about the long-term dynamics of the invasion process. We used ten high-resolution aerial and satellite images taken from 1936 to 1996 to track the population dynamics and spatial pattern of all P. glandulosa greater than 2 m in diameter on a 75 ha area in southern New Mexico. Shrub cover and patch numbers increased from 1936 to the 1970s, then stabilized at 43% cover and 83 patches ha?1. Individual patches were extremely persistent: 95% of the area occupied by shrub patches in 1936 was still occupied in 1996. Recruitment into the 2 m size class...
Abstract (from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eap.1389/full): Woody plant encroachment and overall declines in perennial vegetation in dryland regions can alter ecosystem properties and indicate land degradation, but the causes of these shifts remain controversial. Determining how changes in the abundance and distribution of grass and woody plants are influenced by conditions that regulate water availability at a regional scale provides a baseline to compare how management actions alter the composition of these vegetation types at a more local scale and can be used to predict future shifts under climate change. Using a remote-sensing-based approach, we assessed the balance between grasses and woody plants...
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This dataset includes the cover of perennial grasses in 1989, 1995, 1999, 2005, and 2009 across southern Arizona. Cover was determined using sub-pixel classifications of two Landsat scenes from path 36, row 38 (centered on latitude: 31.7470, longitude: -111.3981) and path 37, row 38 (31.7470, -112.9431) that encompass Tucson, AZ.
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Woody plant encroachment and overall declines in perennial vegetation in dryland regions can alter ecosystem properties and indicate land degradation, but the causes of these shifts remain controversial. Determining how changes in the abundance and distribution of grass and woody plants are influenced by conditions that regulate water availability at a regional scale provides a baseline to which compare how management actions alter the composition of these vegetation types at a more local scale and can be used to predict future shifts under climate change. Using a remote sensing-based approach, we assessed the balance between grasses and woody plants and how climate and topo-edaphic conditions affected their abundances...
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Shrub encroachment due to overgrazing has led to dramatic changes of savanna landscapes and is considered to be one of the most threatening forms of rangeland degradation e.g. via habitat fragmentation. Mammalian carnivores are particularly vulnerable to local extinction in fragmented landscapes. However, our understanding of how shrub encroachment affects mammalian carnivores is poor. Here we investigated the relative sensitivities of ten native carnivores to different levels of shrub cover ranging from low (<5%) to high shrub cover (>25%) in 20 southern Kalahari rangeland sites. Relative abundance of carnivores was monitored along 40 sand transects (5 m × 250 m) for each site. Our results show that increasing...
Recent trends of increasing woody vegetation in arid and semiarid ecosystems may contribute substantially to the North American C sink. There is considerable uncertainty, however, in the extent to which woody encroachment alters dryland soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) pools. To date, studies assessing SOC and TN response to woody plant proliferation have not explicitly assessed the variability caused by shrub age or size and subcanopy spatial gradients. These factors were quantified via spatially intensive soil sampling around Prosopis velutina shrubs in a semidesert grassland, using shrub size as a proxy for age. We found that bulk density increased with distance from the bole (P < 0.005) and...
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This dataset includes the cover of leguminous trees (Prosopis velutina, Parkinsonia microphylla, Parkinsonia florida) in 1989, 1995, 1999, 2005, and 2009 across southern Arizona. Cover was determined using sub-pixel classifications of two Landsat scenes from path 36, row 38 (centered on latitude: 31.7470, longitude: -111.3981) and path 37, row 38 (31.7470, -112.9431) that encompass Tucson, AZ.
Woody plant encroachment is affecting vegetation composition in arid grasslands worldwide and has been associated with a number of environmental drivers and feedbacks. It has been argued that the relatively abrupt character (both in space and in time) of grassland-to-shrubland transitions observed in many drylands around the world might result from positive feedbacks in the underlying ecosystem dynamics. In the case of the Chihuahuan Desert, we show that one such feedback could emerge from interactions between vegetation and microclimate conditions. Shrub establishment modifies surface energy fluxes, causing an increase in nighttime air temperature, particularly during wintertime. The resulting change in winter...
Shrub encroachment into open woodland is a widespread phenomenon in semi-arid woodlands worldwide. Encroachment or woody thickening, is thought to result from overgrazing, changes in fire regimes and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Eighteen years after one-off shrub removal by ploughing we assessed the effects of four different land management systems resulting from two levels each of grazing (grazed, ungrazed) with and without ploughing, on the cover of landscape units, soil surface condition, diversity of understorey plants and density of shrubs. We recorded 2-7 times more patches under conventional conservation (unploughed-ungrazed) than the others treatments, and plant cover and diversity...
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This dataset includes the cover of creosote bush (Larrea tridentata)in 1989, 1995, 1999, 2005, and 2009 across southern Arizona. Cover was determined using sub-pixel classifications of two Landsat scenes from path 36, row 38 (centered on latitude: 31.7470, longitude: -111.3981) and path 37, row 38 (31.7470, -112.9431) that encompass Tucson, AZ.


    map background search result map search result map Shrub encroachment affects mammalian carnivore abundance and species richness in semiarid rangelands Data for Decadal shifts in grass and woody plant cover are driven by prolonged drying and modified by topo-edaphic properties Shifts in Perennial grass in southern Arizona, 1989 - 2009 Shifts in Creosote bush in southern Arizona, 1989 - 2009 Shifts in Leguminous tree in southern Arizona, 1989 - 2009 Data for Decadal shifts in grass and woody plant cover are driven by prolonged drying and modified by topo-edaphic properties Shifts in Perennial grass in southern Arizona, 1989 - 2009 Shifts in Creosote bush in southern Arizona, 1989 - 2009 Shifts in Leguminous tree in southern Arizona, 1989 - 2009 Shrub encroachment affects mammalian carnivore abundance and species richness in semiarid rangelands