Scale-dependent feedbacks between patch size and plant reproduction in desert grassland

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Theoretical models suggest that scale-dependent feedbacks between plant reproductive success and plant patch size govern transitions from highly to sparsely vegetated states in drylands, yet there is scant empirical evidence for these mechanisms. Scale-dependent feedback models suggest that an optimal patch size exists for growth and reproduction of plants and that a threshold patch organization exists below which positive feedbacks between vegetation and resources can break down, leading to critical transitions. We examined the relationship between patch size and plant reproduction using an experiment in a Chihuahuan Desert grassland. We tested the hypothesis that reproductive effort and success of a dominant grass (Bouteloua eriopoda) would vary predictably with patch size. We found that focal plants in medium-sized patches featured higher rates of grass reproductive success than when plants occupied either large patch interiors or small patches. These patterns support the existence of scale-dependent feedbacks in Chihuahuan Desert grasslands and indicate an optimal patch size for reproductive effort and success in B. eriopoda. We discuss the implications of these results for detecting ecological thresholds in desert grasslands.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Scale-dependent feedbacks between patch size and plant reproduction in desert grassland
Series title Ecosystems
DOI 10.1007/s10021-014-9818-9
Volume 18
Issue 1
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer
Publisher location New York, NY
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 8 p.
First page 146
Last page 153
Country United States
State New Mexico
Other Geospatial Chihuahuan Desert
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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