The effect of the age of geomorphic surfaces on the recovery of desert vegetation in military target sites was studied in the Mohave and Cerbat Mountains of northwestern Arizona. The target sites were cleared of all vegetation during military exercises in 1942-1943 and have not been subsequently disturbed. The degree of recovery was measured by calculating percentage-similarity (PS) and correlation-coefficient indices on the basis of differences in cover, density, and volume of species growing in and out of each target site. PS values, ranging from 22.7 to 95.1 percent (100 percent = identical composition), indicate a wide range of recovery that is partially controlled by the edaphic properties of the geomorphic surfaces. Statistical analyses show a strong pattern that indicates a greater variability in the degree of recovery for sites on older surfaces than on younger surfaces and a weak pattern that indicates an inverse relation between the degree of recovery and geomorphic age. Comparisons of the different effects of target site construction on the edaphic characteristics of each target site provides an explanation for these patterns and suggests the soil properties critical to the recovery process. Statistically significant negative or positive response to disturbance for most species are independent of the age of the geomorphic surfaces; however, there is strong evidence for a shift in response for the common perennial species Acamptopappus sphaerocephalus, and to a lesser extent, Salazaria mexicana, Encelia farinosa, and Coldenia canescens, among different geomorphic surfaces.
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USGS Numbered Series
Recovery of perennial vegetation in military target sites in the eastern Mohave Desert, Arizona