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Anthropogenic degradation of the southern California desert ecosystem and prospects for natural recovery and restoration

Environmental Management

By:
,
DOI: 10.1007/s002679900235

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Abstract

Large areas of the southern California desert ecosystem have been negatively affected by off-highway vehicle use, overgrazing by domestic livestock, agriculture, urbanization, construction of roads and utility corridors, air pollution, military training exercises, and other activities. Secondary contributions to degradation include the proliferation of exotic plant species and a higher frequency of an- thropogenic fire. Effects of these impacts include alteration or destruction of macro- and micro- vegetation elements, establishment of annual plant communities dominated by exotic species, destruction of soil stabilizers, soil compaction, and increased erosion. Published estimates of recovery time are based on return to predisturbance levels of biomass, cover, density, community structure, or soil characteristics. Natural recovery rates depend on the nature and severity of the impact but are generally very slow. Recovery to predisturbance plant cover and biomass may take 50-300 years, while complete ecosystem recovery may require over 3000 years. Restorative intervention can be used to enhance the success and rate of recovery, but the costs are high and the probability for long-term success is low to moderate. Given the sensitivity of desert habitats to disturbance and the slow rate of natural recovery, the best management option is to limit the extent and intensity of impacts as much as possible.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Anthropogenic degradation of the southern California desert ecosystem and prospects for natural recovery and restoration
Series title:
Environmental Management
DOI:
10.1007/s002679900235
Volume
24
Issue:
3
Year Published:
1999
Language:
English
Publisher:
Springer-Verlag New York
Publisher location:
New York, NY, United States
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Environmental Management
First page:
309
Last page:
326
Number of Pages:
18