Vegetation sampling on 11 debris flow terraces in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, U.S.A., showed that plant assemblages changed as age of surface increased. The terraces ranged in age from about 5 to about 3100 years. There were distinct differences among sites in the life history characteristics of the dominant plants. Young terraces (5-55 years) were dominated by short-lived plants that had high reproductive potential. Older surfaces were dominated by species with longer life-spans and lower reproductive potential. Density and cover of long-lived species increased with age of surface; for short-lived plants, density was inversely related to surface age. Species composition was also correlated with site age; however, location, exposure, and other factors ensured that no two debris flows supported identical mixtures of species. Succession on recent Grand Canyon debris flows is driven in part by life-history strategies, particularly life-span and seed dispersal traits, and also by climatic factors, especially those that control germination and establishment of the long-lived dominants.
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Succession of desert plants on debris flow terraces, Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A.