Climate and soil texture influence patterns of forb species richness and composition in big sagebrush plant communities across their spatial extent in the western US

Plant Ecology
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

Article for outlet: Plant Ecology. Abstract: Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) plant communities are widespread non-forested drylands in western North American and similar to all shrub steppe ecosystems world-wide are composed of a shrub overstory layer and a forb and graminoid understory layer. Forbs account for the majority of plant species diversity in big sagebrush plant communities and are important for ecosystem function. Few studies have explored the geographic patterns of forb species richness and composition and their relationships with environmental variables in these communities. Our objectives were to examine the small and large-scale spatial patterns in forb species richness and composition and the influence of environmental variables. We sampled forb species richness and composition along transects at 15 field sites in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, built species-area relationships to quantify differences in forb species richness at sites, and used Principal Components Analysis and nonmetric multidimensional scaling to identify relationships among environmental variables and forb species richness and composition. We found that species richness was most strongly correlated with soil texture, while species composition was most related to climate. The combination of climate and soil texture influences water availability, with important consequences for forb species richness and composition, which suggests climate-change induced modification of soil water availability may have important implications for plant species diversity in the future. Our paper is the first to our knowledge to examine forb biodiversity patterns in big sagebrush ecosystems in relation to environmental factors across the big sagebrush region.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Climate and soil texture influence patterns of forb species richness and composition in big sagebrush plant communities across their spatial extent in the western US
Series title Plant Ecology
DOI 10.1007/s11258-017-0743-9
Volume 218
Issue 8
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 14 p.
First page 957
Last page 970
Country United States
State Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming