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image of Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

A creosote bush scrub community was destroyed by excavation of a borrow pit in 1970–71, and replaced by a community of small gray shrubs. Larrea tridentata (312 m3 per hectare), Opuntia bigelovii (165 m3) and Krameria grayi (34 m3) dominate the neighboring undisturbed vegetation. Encelia frutescens (164 m3 per ha in 1979), Ambrosia dumosa (28 m3), Stephanomeria pauciflora (24 m3) and Opuntia bigelovii (19 m3) dominate the vegetation of the deeply disturbed borrow pit bottom. Several strategies are apparent: (I) Larrea tridentata and other very long-lived shrubs are eliminated by heavy disturbance. New seedlings are slowly recruited after several years delay. (II) Opportunistic shrubs of intermediate long-life spans normally recycle within the community given certain opportunities of open surface. They are eliminated by heavy disturbance, but rapidly establish new populations from stem joints (Opuntia) or from seeds (Ambrosia). (III) Short-lived perennials (pioneers) invade by seed from occasional plants scattered in small washes and other natural slightly disturbed sites in the region (Encelia, Stephanomeria). Plant succession occurs in desert ecosystems and appears comparable to that in other ecosystems.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California


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