Patterns of habitat invasibility and alien dominance, respectively measured as species richness and biomass of alien annual plants, were evaluated in association with four habitat factors at the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area (DTNA) in the western Mojave Desert, USA. Habitat factors varied in levels of disturbance outside (high) and inside (low) the DTNA, and in levels of soil nutrients in washlet (high) and hummock (low) topographic positions, in Larrea-north (high), Larrea-south (medium), and interspace (low) microhabitats near creosote bushes (Larrea tridentata), and during 1995 when rainfall was 207% (high) and 1994 when rainfall was 52% (low) of the long-term average. Dominant alien plants included the annual grasses Bromus rubens, Bromus trinii, and Schismus spp., and the forb Erodium cicutarium. Species richness and dominance of alien annual plants were slightly higher where disturbance was high, and much higher where soil nutrients were high. B. rubens and B. trinii were most dominant in washlets and in the Larrea-north microhabitats during both years. These two species evolved in mesic ecosystems, and appeared to be particularly limited by soil nutrients at this site. Schismus spp. and E. cicutarium were also most dominant in washlets, but their dominance varied between interspaces in 1994 and the Larrea-south microhabitat in 1995. Monitoring to detect the invasion of new annual plants should focus on regions of high rainfall and nitrogen deposition and on washes and beneath-canopy microhabitats. The ecological range of each alien species should be evaluated separately, because their evolutionary origins may greatly affect their patterns of invasion and dominance in the Mojave Desert.
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Habitat invasibility and dominance by alien annual plants in the western Mojave Desert