Woody plant proliferation in desert grasslands: perspectives from roots and ranchers

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/321001
Title:
Woody plant proliferation in desert grasslands: perspectives from roots and ranchers
Author:
Woods, Steven Richard
Issue Date:
2014
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Embargo:
Release 2-May-2015
Abstract:
The widespread proliferation (or 'encroachment') of trees and shrubs in grasslands over the past 150 years is embedded in both natural and human systems. This dissertation addressed the following ecological and ethnoecological questions. Can seedling traits help us understand why so few woody species have encroached markedly into North American desert grasslands, and the conditions likely to promote their proliferation? What is the role of informal knowledge of the environment in efforts to manage woody plant abundance? Woody seedling survival often depends on rapid taproot elongation. In glasshouse experiments, initial water supply markedly affected taproot elongation in young seedlings. Response patterns may help explain recruitment patterns in Larrea tridentata, the principal evergreen woody encroacher in Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, and in Prosopis velutina and Prosopis glandulosa, the principal deciduous woody encroachers in Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, respectively. P. velutina and P. glandulosa showed greater sensitivity to water supply levels at the seedling stage than did the similar, related non-encroachers, Acacia greggii, Parkinsonia florida and Parkinsonia aculeata . This enabled the Prosopis species to overcome lower seed and seedling biomass to achieve similar taproot length to A. greggii and the Parkinsonia species. Consequently, population level advantages of lower seed mass, such as high seed numbers, may enhance encroachment potential in the Prosopis species without being negated by corresponding seedling survivorship disadvantages. I used semi-structured interviews to document informal rangeland monitoring by ranchers in southeast Arizona. Ranchers used qualitative methods to assess forage availability, rangeland trends and responses to woody plant suppression measures. Informal rangeland assessments informed ranchers' management decisions on sub-yearly, yearly and multi-year timescales. Informal monitoring appeared largely compatible with formal monitoring and natural science, and most ranchers integrated the two systems. Informal rangeland assessments can be valuable in planning woody plant suppression measures, particularly in light of the small number of formal long-term studies of brush suppression. Ecological studies may help predict places and periods of relatively rapid encroachment, perhaps enabling early or pre-emptive brush suppression measures. Thus, both seedling ecology and informal environmental knowledge are likely to be useful in managing woody plant populations in desert grasslands.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
ethnoecology; monitoring; recruitment; seedling; Arid Lands Resource Sciences; establishment
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; Arid Lands Resource Sciences
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Archer, Steven

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoen_USen
dc.titleWoody plant proliferation in desert grasslands: perspectives from roots and ranchersen_US
dc.creatorWoods, Steven Richarden_US
dc.contributor.authorWoods, Steven Richarden_US
dc.date.issued2014-
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.releaseRelease 2-May-2015en_US
dc.description.abstractThe widespread proliferation (or 'encroachment') of trees and shrubs in grasslands over the past 150 years is embedded in both natural and human systems. This dissertation addressed the following ecological and ethnoecological questions. Can seedling traits help us understand why so few woody species have encroached markedly into North American desert grasslands, and the conditions likely to promote their proliferation? What is the role of informal knowledge of the environment in efforts to manage woody plant abundance? Woody seedling survival often depends on rapid taproot elongation. In glasshouse experiments, initial water supply markedly affected taproot elongation in young seedlings. Response patterns may help explain recruitment patterns in Larrea tridentata, the principal evergreen woody encroacher in Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, and in Prosopis velutina and Prosopis glandulosa, the principal deciduous woody encroachers in Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, respectively. P. velutina and P. glandulosa showed greater sensitivity to water supply levels at the seedling stage than did the similar, related non-encroachers, Acacia greggii, Parkinsonia florida and Parkinsonia aculeata . This enabled the Prosopis species to overcome lower seed and seedling biomass to achieve similar taproot length to A. greggii and the Parkinsonia species. Consequently, population level advantages of lower seed mass, such as high seed numbers, may enhance encroachment potential in the Prosopis species without being negated by corresponding seedling survivorship disadvantages. I used semi-structured interviews to document informal rangeland monitoring by ranchers in southeast Arizona. Ranchers used qualitative methods to assess forage availability, rangeland trends and responses to woody plant suppression measures. Informal rangeland assessments informed ranchers' management decisions on sub-yearly, yearly and multi-year timescales. Informal monitoring appeared largely compatible with formal monitoring and natural science, and most ranchers integrated the two systems. Informal rangeland assessments can be valuable in planning woody plant suppression measures, particularly in light of the small number of formal long-term studies of brush suppression. Ecological studies may help predict places and periods of relatively rapid encroachment, perhaps enabling early or pre-emptive brush suppression measures. Thus, both seedling ecology and informal environmental knowledge are likely to be useful in managing woody plant populations in desert grasslands.en_US
dc.typetexten
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen
dc.subjectethnoecologyen_US
dc.subjectmonitoringen_US
dc.subjectrecruitmenten_US
dc.subjectseedlingen_US
dc.subjectArid Lands Resource Sciencesen_US
dc.subjectestablishmenten_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineArid Lands Resource Sciencesen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorArcher, Stevenen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberArcher, Stevenen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberHutchinson, Charlesen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberFish, Suzanneen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberAustin, Dianeen_US
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