Matching Items (13)

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Flora of the upper Verde River, Arizona

Description

The Upper Verde River of central Arizona flows through a landscape of complex geology at the meeting of seven biotic communities and three physiographic provinces. This has resulted in notably

The Upper Verde River of central Arizona flows through a landscape of complex geology at the meeting of seven biotic communities and three physiographic provinces. This has resulted in notably diverse flora and fauna and a hub of rare and endemic plant species. The river has sustained cultures since pre-history, however current regional water use is predicted to diminish streamflow over the next century. Prior to this project, no floristic inventory had been conducted along any section of the Verde. The purpose of this study was to develop a Flora of the Upper Verde River, with the goals of documenting rare and endemic species, the composition and abundance of wetland plants, and the factors shaping plant diversity in the region.

I made a total of 1856 collections and reviewed past collections to produce a checklist of 729 vascular plant taxa in 403 genera and 98 families. The most species-rich family is the Poaceae, followed by Asteraceae and Fabaceae. The flora includes 159 wetland taxa, 47 endemics, and 26 taxa of conservation concern, eight of which are Federally listed. Several new populations were found in these categories and of rarely-collected taxa including one state record, three county records and several range extensions. I report on the local status of several endemics, wetland taxa with limited distributions, and relict populations of a tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius) that were likely transported to the region and cultivated by pre-Columbian cultures. I categorize thirteen distinct plant communities, the most abundant being Pinyon/Juniper Woodland, Chihuahuan/Apacherian Scrub, and Riparian Deciduous Forest.

Four primary factors influence floristic diversity of the Upper Verde region: 1) a location at the junction of three physiographic and floristic provinces—represented by co-occurrence of species with affinities to the Sonoran, Intermountain and Madrean regions, 2) geologic diversity—as distinct groups of species are associated with particular geologic types, 3) topographic and habitat complexity—allowing species adapted to disparate environments to co-occur, and 4) human introductions—since over 15% of the flora is composed of introduced species from Eurasia and several taxa were introduced to the region and cultivated by pre-Columbian cultures.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2015

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Soil moisture availability and energetic controls on belowground network complexity and function in arid ecosystems

Description

The explicit role of soil organisms in shaping soil health, rates of pedogenesis, and resistance to erosion has only just recently begun to be explored in the last century. However,

The explicit role of soil organisms in shaping soil health, rates of pedogenesis, and resistance to erosion has only just recently begun to be explored in the last century. However, much of the research regarding soil biota and soil processes is centered on maintaining soil fertility (e.g., plant nutrient availability) and soil structure in mesic- and agro- ecosystems. Despite the empirical and theoretical strides made in soil ecology over the last few decades, questions regarding ecosystem function and soil processes remain, especially for arid areas. Arid areas have unique ecosystem biogeochemistry, decomposition processes, and soil microbial responses to moisture inputs that deviate from predictions derived using data generated in more mesic systems. For example, current paradigm predicts that soil microbes will respond positively to increasing moisture inputs in a water-limited environment, yet data collected in arid regions are not congruent with this hypothesis. The influence of abiotic factors on litter decomposition rates (e.g., photodegradation), litter quality and availability, soil moisture pulse size, and resulting feedbacks on detrital food web structure must be explicitly considered for advancing our understanding of arid land ecology. However, empirical data coupling arid belowground food webs and ecosystem processes are lacking. My dissertation explores the resource controls (soil organic matter and soil moisture) on food web network structure, size, and presence/absence of expected belowground trophic groups across a variety of sites in Arizona.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Indirect Effects of Omnivorous Crayfish on Semiarid Stream Macroinvertebrate Communities Mediated by Novel Riparian Vegetation

Description

Novel resource inputs represent an increasingly common phenomenon in ecological systems as global change alters environmental factors and species distributions. In semiarid riparian areas, hydric pioneer tree species are being

Novel resource inputs represent an increasingly common phenomenon in ecological systems as global change alters environmental factors and species distributions. In semiarid riparian areas, hydric pioneer tree species are being replaced by drought-tolerant species as water availability decreases. Additionally, introduced omnivorous crayfish, which feed upon primary producers, allochthonous detritus, and benthic invertebrates, can impact communities at multiple levels through both direct and indirect effects. In arid and semiarid systems of the American Southwest, crayfish may be especially important as detrital processors due to the lack of specialized detritivores. I tested the impact of virile crayfish (Orconectes virilis) on benthic invertebrates and detrital resources across a gradient of riparian vegetation drought-tolerance using field cages with leaf litter bags in the San Pedro River in Southeastern Arizona. Virile crayfish increased breakdown rate of drought-tolerant saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima), but did not impact breakdown of Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii), Gooding's willow (Salix goodingii), or seepwillow (Baccharis salicifolia). The density and composition of the invertebrate community colonizing leaf litter bags were both heavily influenced by litter species but not directly by crayfish presence. As drought-tolerant species become more abundant in riparian zones, their litter will become a larger component of the organic matter budget of desert streams. By increasing breakdown rates of saltcedar, crayfish shift the composition of leaf litter in streams, which in turn may affect the composition and biomass of colonizing invertebrate communities. More research is needed to determine the full extent to which these alterations change community composition over time.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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The plateau pika: a keystone engineer on the Tibetan Plateau

Description

The highly-social plateau pika (Lagomorpha: Ochotona curzoniae) excavates vast burrow complexes in alpine meadows on the Tibetan Plateau. Colonies of over 300 individuals/ha have been reported. As an ecosystem engineer,

The highly-social plateau pika (Lagomorpha: Ochotona curzoniae) excavates vast burrow complexes in alpine meadows on the Tibetan Plateau. Colonies of over 300 individuals/ha have been reported. As an ecosystem engineer, their burrowing may positively impact ecosystem health by increasing plant species diversity, enhancing soil mixing, and boosting water infiltration. However, pikas are commonly regarded as pests, and are heavily poisoned throughout their range. The underlying assumption of eradication programs is that eliminating pikas will improve rangeland quality and decrease soil erosion. This dissertation explores the link between plateau pikas and the alpine meadow ecosystem in Qinghai Province, PRC. This research uses both comparative field studies and theoretical modeling to clarify the role of pika disturbance. Specifically, these studies quantify the impact of pikas on nutrient cycling (via nutrient concentrations of vegetation and soil), hydrology (via water infiltration), local landscape properties (via spatial pattern description), and vascular plant communities (via species richness and composition). The competitive relationship between livestock and pikas is examined with a mathematical model. Results of this research indicate that pika colonies have both local and community level effects on water infiltration and plant species richness. A major contribution of pika disturbance is increased spatial heterogeneity, which likely underlies differences in the plant community. These findings suggest that the positive impact of plateau pikas on rangeland resources has been undervalued. In concurrence with other studies, this work concludes that plateau pikas provide valuable ecosystem services on the Tibetan Plateau.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2010

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Plant migration along freeways in and around an arid urban area: Phoenix, Arizona

Description

General ecological thought pertaining to plant biology, conservation, and urban areas has rested on two potentially contradictory underlying assumptions. The first is that non-native plants can spread easily from human

General ecological thought pertaining to plant biology, conservation, and urban areas has rested on two potentially contradictory underlying assumptions. The first is that non-native plants can spread easily from human developments to “pristine” areas. The second is that native plants cannot disperse through developed areas. Both assume anthropogenic changes to ecosystems create conditions that favor non-native plants and hinder native species. However, it is just as likely that anthropogenic alterations of habitats will favor certain groups of plant species with similar functional traits, whether native or not. Migration of plants can be divided into the following stages: dispersal, germination, establishment, reproduction and spread. Functional traits of species determine which are most successful at each of the stages of invasion or range enlargement. I studied the traits that allow both native and non-native plant species to disperse into freeway corridors, germinate, establish, reproduce, and then disperse along those corridors in Phoenix, Arizona. Field methods included seed bank sample collection and germination, vegetation surveys, and seed trapping. I also evaluated concentrations of plant-available nitrate as a result of localized nitrogen deposition. While many plant species found on the roadsides are either landscape varieties or typical weedy species, some uncommon native species and unexpected non-native species were also encountered. Maintenance regimes greatly influence the amount of vegetative cover and species composition along roadsides. Understanding which traits permit success at various stages of the invasion process indicates whether it is native, non-native, or species with particular traits that are likely to move through the city and establish in the desert. In a related case study conducted in Victoria, Australia, transportation professionals and ecologists were surveyed regarding preferences for roadside landscape design. Roadside design and maintenance projects are typically influenced by different groups of transportation professionals at various stages in a linear project cycle. Landscape architects and design professionals have distinct preferences and priorities compared to other transportation professionals and trained ecologists. The case study reveals the need for collaboration throughout the stages of design, construction and maintenance in order to efficiently manage roadsides for multiple priorities.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2010

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Spatial and temporal patterns in insectivorous bat activity in river-riparian landscapes

Description

River and riparian areas are important foraging habitat for insectivorous bats. Numerous studies have shown that aquatic insects provide an important trophic resource to terrestrial consumers, including bats, and

River and riparian areas are important foraging habitat for insectivorous bats. Numerous studies have shown that aquatic insects provide an important trophic resource to terrestrial consumers, including bats, and are key in regulating population size and species interactions in terrestrial food webs. Yet these studies have generally ignored how structural characteristics of the riverine landscape influence trophic resource availability or how terrestrial consumers respond to ensuing spatial and temporal patterns of trophic resources. Moreover, few studies have examined linkages between a stream's hydrologic regime and the timing and magnitude of aquatic insect availability. The main objective of my dissertation is to understand the causes of bat distributions in space and time. Specifically, I examine how trophic resource availability, structural components of riverine landscapes (channel confinement and riparian vegetation structure), and hydrologic regimes (flow permanence and timing of floods) mediate spatial and temporal patterns in bat activity. First, I show that river channel confinement determines bat activity along a river's longitudinal axis (directly above the river), while trophic resources appear to have stronger effects across a river's lateral (with distance from the river) axis. Second, I show that flow intermittency affects bat foraging activity indirectly via its effects on trophic resource availability. Seasonal river drying appears to have complex effects on bat foraging activity, initially causing imperfect tracking by consumers of localized concentrations of resources but later resulting in disappearance of both insects and bats after complete river drying. Third, I show that resource tracking by bats varies among streams with contrasting patterns of trophic resource availability and this variation appears to be in response to differences in the timing of aquatic insect emergence, duration and magnitude of emergence, and adult body size of emergent aquatic insects. Finally, I show that aquatic insects directly influence bat activity along a desert stream and that riparian vegetation composition affects bat activity, but only indirectly, via effects on aquatic insect availability. Overall, my results show river channel confinement, riparian vegetation structure, flow permanence, and the timing of floods influence spatial and temporal patterns in bat distributions; but these effects are indirect by influencing the ability of bats to track trophic resources in space and time.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2010

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Plant ecology of arid-land wetlands: a watershed moment for ciénega conservation

Description

It’s no secret that wetlands have dramatically declined in the arid and semiarid American West, yet the small number of wetlands that persist provide vital ecosystem services. Ciénega is a

It’s no secret that wetlands have dramatically declined in the arid and semiarid American West, yet the small number of wetlands that persist provide vital ecosystem services. Ciénega is a term that refers to a freshwater arid-land wetland. Today, even in areas where ciénegas are prominent they occupy less than 0.1% of the landscape. This investigation assesses the distribution of vascular plant species within and among ciénegas and address linkages between environmental factors and wetland plant communities. Specifically, I ask: 1) What is the range of variability among ciénegas, with respect to wetland area, soil organic matter, plant species richness, and species composition? 2) How is plant species richness influenced locally by soil moisture, soil salinity, and canopy cover, and regionally by elevation, flow gradient (percent slope), and temporally by season? And 3) Within ciénegas, how do soil moisture, soil salinity, and canopy cover influence plant species community composition? To answer these questions I measured environmental variables and quantified vegetation at six cienegas within the Santa Cruz Watershed in southern Arizona over one spring and two post-monsoon periods. Ciénegas are highly variable with respect to wetland area, soil organic matter, plant species richness, and species composition. Therefore, it is important to conserve the ciénega landscape as opposed to conserving a single ciénega. Plant species richness is influenced negatively by soil moisture, positively by soil salinity, elevation, and flow gradient (percent slope), and is greater during the post-monsoon season. Despite concerns about woody plant encroachment reducing biodiversity, my investigation suggests canopy cover has no significant influence on ciénega species richness. Plant species community composition is structured by water availability at all ciénegas, which is consistent with the key role water availability plays in arid and semiarid regions. Effects of canopy and salinity structuring community composition are site specific. My investigation has laid the groundwork for ciénega conservation by providing baseline information of the ecology of these unique and threatened systems. The high variability of ciénega wetlands and the rare species they harbor combined with the numerous threats against them and their isolated occurrences makes these vanishing communities high priority for conservation.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Herpetofauna community responses to saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) biological control and riparian restoration along a Mojave Desert stream, U.S.A

Description

In riparian ecosystems, reptiles and amphibians are good indicators of environmental conditions. Herpetofauna have been linked to specific microhabitat characteristics, microclimates, and water resources in riparian forests. My objective was

In riparian ecosystems, reptiles and amphibians are good indicators of environmental conditions. Herpetofauna have been linked to specific microhabitat characteristics, microclimates, and water resources in riparian forests. My objective was to relate herpetofauna abundance to changes in riparian habitat along the Virgin River caused by the Tamarix biological control agent, Diorhabda carinulata, and riparian restoration.

During 2013 and 2014, vegetation and herpetofauna were monitored at 21 riparian locations along the Virgin River via trapping and visual encounter surveys. Study sites were divided into four stand types based on density and percent cover of dominant trees (Tamarix, Prosopis, Populus, and Salix) and presence of restoration activities: Tam, Tam-Pros, Tam-Pop/Sal, and Restored Tam-Pop/Sal. Restoration activities consisted of mechanical removal of non-native trees, transplanting native trees, and introduction of water flow. All sites were affected by biological control. I predicted that herpetofauna abundance would vary between stand types and that herpetofauna abundance would be greatest in Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites due to increased habitat openness and variation following restoration efforts.

Results from trapping indicated that Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites had three times more total lizard and eight times more Sceloporus uniformis captures than other stand types. Anaxyrus woodhousii abundance was greatest in Tam-Pop/Sal and Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites. Visual encounter surveys indicated that herpetofauna abundance was greatest in the Restored Tam-Pop/Sal site compared to the adjacent Unrestored Tam-Pop/Sal site. Habitat variables were reduced to six components using a principle component analysis and significant differences were detected among stand types. Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites were most similar to Tam-Pop/Sal sites. S. uniformis were positively associated with large woody debris and high densities of Populus, Salix, and large diameter Prosopis.

Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites likely supported higher abundances of herpetofauna, as these areas exhibited greater habitat heterogeneity. Restoration activities created a mosaic habitat by reducing canopy cover and increasing native tree density and surface water. Natural resource managers should consider implementing additional restoration efforts following biological control when attempting to restore riparian areas dominated by Tamarix and other non-native trees.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Plant community composition along the historic Verde River irrigation system: does hydrochory play a role?

Description

As an industrial society, humans have increasingly separated agricultural processes from natural ecosystems. Many areas of the Southwestern US, however, maintain traditional practices that link agricultural systems to the

As an industrial society, humans have increasingly separated agricultural processes from natural ecosystems. Many areas of the Southwestern US, however, maintain traditional practices that link agricultural systems to the natural environment. One such practice, diverting river water into fields via earthen irrigation canals, allows ditch water to recharge groundwater and riparian vegetation to prosper along canal banks. As there is growing interest in managing landscapes for multiple ecosystem services, this study was undertaken to determine if irrigation canals function as an extension of the riparian corridor. I was specifically interested in determining if the processes within semi-arid streams that drive riparian plant community structure are manifested in earthen irrigation ditches. I examined herbaceous and woody vegetation along the middle Verde River, AZ, USA and three adjacent irrigation ditches across six months. I also collected sieved hydrochores--seeds dispersing through water--within ditches and the river twelve times. Results indicate that ditch vegetation was similar to streamside river vegetation in abundance (cover and basal area) due to surface water availability but more diverse than river streamside vegetation due to high heterogeneity. Compositionally, herbaceous vegetation along the ditch was most similar to the river banks, while low disturbance fostered woody vegetation along the ditches similar to high floodplain and river terrace vegetation. Hydrochore richness and abundance within the river was dependent on seasonality and stream discharge, but these relationships were dampened in the ditches. Species-specific strategies of hydrochory, however, did emerge in both systems. Strategies include pulse species, which disperse via hydrochory in strict accordance with their restricted dispersal windows, constant species, which are year round hydrochores, and combination species, which show characteristics of both. There was high overlap in the composition of hydrochores in the two systems, with obligate wetland species abundant in both. Upland species were more seasonally constant and abundant in the ditch water than the river. The consistency of river processes and similarity of vegetation suggest that earthen irrigation ditches do function as an extension of the riparian corridor. Thus, these man-made irrigation ditches should be considered by stakeholders for their multiple ecosystem services.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2010

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Effluent-dominated waterways in the southwestern United States: advancing water policy through ecological analysis

Description

Over the past century in the southwestern United States human actions have altered hydrological processes that shape riparian ecosystems. One change, release of treated wastewater into waterways, has created perennial

Over the past century in the southwestern United States human actions have altered hydrological processes that shape riparian ecosystems. One change, release of treated wastewater into waterways, has created perennial base flows and increased nutrient availability in ephemeral or intermittent channels. While there are benefits to utilizing treated wastewater for environmental flows, there are numerous unresolved ecohydrological issues regarding the efficacy of effluent to sustain groundwater-dependent riparian ecosystems. This research examined how nutrient-rich effluent, released into waterways with varying depths to groundwater, influences riparian plant community development. Statewide analysis of spatial and temporal patterns of effluent generation and release revealed that hydrogeomorphic setting significantly influences downstream riparian response. Approximately 70% of effluent released is into deep groundwater systems, which produced the lowest riparian development. A greenhouse study assessed how varying concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, emulating levels in effluent, influenced plant community response. With increasing nitrogen concentrations, vegetation emerging from riparian seed banks had greater biomass, reduced species richness, and greater abundance of nitrophilic species. The effluent-dominated Santa Cruz River in southern Arizona, with a shallow groundwater upper reach and deep groundwater lower reach, served as a study river while the San Pedro River provided a control. Analysis revealed that woody species richness and composition were similar between the two systems. Hydric pioneers (Populus fremontii, Salix gooddingii) were dominant at perennial sites on both rivers. Nitrophilic species (Conium maculatum, Polygonum lapathifolium) dominated herbaceous plant communities and plant heights were greatest in effluent-dominated reaches. Riparian vegetation declined with increasing downstream distance in the upper Santa Cruz, while patterns in the lower Santa Cruz were confounded by additional downstream agricultural input and a channelized floodplain. There were distinct longitudinal and lateral shifts toward more xeric species with increasing downstream distance and increasing lateral distance from the low-flow channel. Patterns in the upper and lower Santa Cruz reaches indicate that water availability drives riparian vegetation outcomes below treatment facilities. Ultimately, this research informs decision processes and increases adaptive capacity for water resources policy and management through the integration of ecological data in decision frameworks regarding the release of effluent for environmental flows.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2011