Land managers are concerned about the negative effects of alien annual plants on native plants, threatened and endangered species such as the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), and ecosystem integrity in the Mojave Desert. Management of alien plants is hampered by a lack of information regarding the dominance and environmental correlates of these species. The results of this study indicate that alien plant species comprised a small fraction of the total annual plant flora, but most of the annual plant community biomass. When rainfall was high in 1995, aliens comprised 6% of the flora and 66% of the biomass. When rainfall was low in 1999, aliens comprised 27% of the flora and 91% of the biomass. Bromus rubens, Schismus spp. (S. arabicus and S. barbatus), and Erodium cicutarium were the predominant alien species during both years, comprising 99% of the alien biomass. B. rubens was more abundant in relatively mesic microhabitats beneath shrub canopies and at higher elevations above 800-1000 m, whereas Schismus spp. and E. cicutarium were more abundant in the relatively arid interspaces between shrubs, and, for Schismus spp., at lower elevations as well. Disturbance variables were more reliable indicators of alien dominance than were productivity or native plant diversity variables, although relationships often varied between years of contrasting rainfall. The strongest environmental correlates occurred between dirt road density and alien species richness and biomass of E. cicutarium, and between frequency and size of fires and biomass of B. rubens.
Additional publication details
Dominance and environmental correlates of alien annual plants in the Mojave Desert, USA