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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #150384

Title: DESERTIFICATION AND BIOPEDTURBATION IN THE NORTHERN CHIHUAHUAN DESERT

Author
item JACKSON, ERIK
item KROGH, SONYA
item WHITFORD, WALTER

Submitted to: Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/19/2002
Publication Date: 1/1/2003
Citation: Jackson, E.C., Krogh, S.N., Whitford, W.G. Desertification and biopedturbation in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. Journal of Arid Environments. 2003. v. 53(1). p. 1-14.

Interpretive Summary: Biopedturbation or animal-produced soil disturbance has been shown to be important in soil formation, water infiltration and storage, soil nutrient heterogeneity, and soil erosion. The relationship between biopedturbation and rangelands in different states of degradation or health was studied at 117 sites in south-central New Mexico. Total area of soil disturbance was directly related to the percentage of grass cover and negatively related to increasing shrub cover and/or average size of unvegetated soil patches. The area of soil disturbance and volume of soil moved by animals were related to degree of degradation of sites. It was concluded that measurement of animal-produced soil disturbance provides a rapid assessment of the status of animals important in the functioning of Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems and could be an indicator of rangeland health when combined with other vegetation and soil indicators.

Technical Abstract: We examined the relationship between biopedturbation (animal-caused soil disturbance) and several vegetation and soil-based indicators of rangeland condition to evaluate the effects of desertification on animal soil disturbance. The area, volume, and abundance of various biopedturbation types were assessed at 117 sites in south-central New Mexico where vegetative cover and composition had previously been measured. There were significant relationships between biopedturbation and selected rangeland condition indicators. Increasing percentages of grass cover were positively associated with increasing total area of biopedturbation. Increasing percentages of shrub cover and mean bare patch size were negatively associated with total biopedturbation area. Biopedturbation area and volume were related to indicators of rangeland condition and percent shrub cover best predicts the area of soil disturbed by animals. This relationship, however, cannot reliably predict total biopedturbation area or the area of soil disturbance types.