thumbnail

Opposing environmental gradients govern vegetation zonation in an intermountain playa

Wetlands

By:
, , and
DOI: 10.1672/07-111.1

Links

Abstract

Vegetation zonation was investigated at an intermountain playa wetland (Mishak Lakes) in the San Luis Valley (SLV) of southern Colorado. Plant composition and abiotic conditions were quantified in six vegetation zones. Reciprocal transplants were performed to test the importance of abiotic factors in governing zonation. Abiotic conditions differed among several vegetation zones. Prolonged inundation led to anaerobic soils in the Eleocharis palustris and the submerged aquatics zones, on the low end of the site's 1.25 m elevation gradient. On the high end of the gradient, soil salinity and sodicity (a measure of exchangeable sodium) were high in the Distichlis spicata zone (electrical conductivity, EC = 5.3 dS/m, sodium absorption ratio, SAR = 44.0) and extreme in the Sarcobatus vermiculatus zone (EC = 21 dS/m, SAR = 274). Transplanted species produced maximum biomass in the zone where they originated, not in any other higher or lower vegetation zone. The greatest overall transplant effect occurred for E. palustris, which experienced a ??? 77% decline in productivity when transplanted to other zones. This study provides evidence that physical factors are a major determinant of vegetation zone composition and distribution across the entire elevation gradient at Mishak Lakes. Patterns at Mishak Lakes arise from counter-directional stress gradients: a gradient from anaerobic to well-oxygenated from basin bottom to upland and a gradient from extremely high salinity to low salinity in the opposing direction. Because abiotic conditions dominate vegetation zonation, restoration of the altered hydrologic regime of this wetland to a natural hydrologic regime may be sufficient to re-establish many of the natural biodiversity functions provided by these wetlands. ?? 2008 The Society of Wetland Scientists.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Opposing environmental gradients govern vegetation zonation in an intermountain playa
Series title:
Wetlands
DOI:
10.1672/07-111.1
Volume
28
Issue:
4
Year Published:
2008
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Wetlands
First page:
1060
Last page:
1070
Number of Pages:
11