We documented changes in the abundance and composition of terrestrial flora and fauna with respect to distance from the sea edge and timing of large allochthonous inputs from the Salton Sea, California. We found significant effects that were most pronounced within 300 m of the shore, but extended 3 km inland via coyote scat deposition. The zone within 300 m of the sea had a higher density of vegetation with a distinctly different plant composition. The denser vegetation supported higher abundances of birds and reptiles. Coyotes exhibited spatial and temporal responses to marine subsidies of fish, while birds were likely subsidized by aquatic aerial insects. Top-down control, as well as dietary and habitat preferences, may have resulted in reduced number of ants, beetles, and small mammals near the sea. Species responses to the habitat edge appeared to be associated with life history, as the near shore habitat favored habitat generalists and shore specialists, while inland desert habitat favored many sand and open desert specialists. Ecosystem responses support current theories of allochthonous spatial subsidies and consumer-resource dynamics but were limited in scope, magnitude, and distance.
Additional publication details
Spatial and temporal patterns across an ecological boundary: Allochthonous effects of a young saltwater lake on a desert ecosystem