Human expansion into the Mojave Desert is a significant threat to rare desert plants. While immediate habitat loss is often the greatest concern, rare plants situated near areas where soil surfaces experience frequent disturbance may be indirectly impacted when fine particulate dust accumulates on leaf surfaces. Remaining populations of the federally listed Astragalus jaegerianus (Lane Mountain milkvetch) occur on land open to expanding military activities and on adjacent public land with increasing recreational use. This study was initiated to determine whether dust accumulation could decrease the vigor and fitness of A. jaegerianus through reduced growth. Beginning in early May 2004, plants located on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land were dusted bimonthly at canopy-level dust concentrations ranging from 0 to 32 g/m2, and physiology and growth were monitored until late June when plants senesced. The maximum experimental dust level simulates dust concentrations of Mojave Desert perennials neighboring military activities at a nearby army training center. Average shoot growth declined with increasing dust accumulation, but seasonal net photosynthesis increased. Further investigation of plants grown in a greenhouse supported similar trends. This pattern of greater net photosynthesis with increasing dust accumulation may be explained by higher leaf temperatures of dusted individuals. Ambient dust deposition measured in traps near field plants (May 2004–July 2004) ranged from 0.04–0.17 g/m2/ d, which was well below the lowest level of dust on experimental plants (3.95 g/m2/d). With this low level of ambient deposition, we expect that A. jaegerianus plants in this population were not greatly affected by the dust they receive at the level of recreational use during the study.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Dust deposition effects on growth and physiology of the endangered Astragalus jaegerianus (Fabaceae)|
|Publisher||California Botanical Society|
|Contributing office(s)||Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Western Ecological Research Center|