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Changes in Grass Basal Area and Forb Densities over a 64-Year Period on Grassland Types of the Jornada Experimental Range

Robert P. Gibbens and Reldon F. Beck
Journal of Range Management
Vol. 41, No. 3 (May, 1988), pp. 186-192
DOI: 10.2307/3899165
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3899165
Page Count: 7
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Changes in Grass Basal Area and Forb Densities over a 64-Year Period on Grassland Types of the Jornada Experimental Range
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Abstract

Between 1915 and 1932, permanent 1 × 1-m quadrats were established on grasslands of the Jornada Experimental Range in southern New Mexico. Quadrat records accumulated from 1915 to 1979 on grasslands dominated by black grama [Bouteloua eriopoda (Torr.) Torr.], poverty threeawn (Aristida divaricata Willd.), tobosa [Hilaria mutica (Buckl.) Benth.], and burrograss (Scleropogon brevifolius Phil.) were used to examine changes in perennial grass basal area and forb densities. Quadrats originally dominated by black grama had large reductions in basal area during droughts, and basal area increased slowly following droughts. By 1979, black grama no longer occurred on 77% of the quadrats. Quadrats originally dominated by poverty threeawn changed to a mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr. var. glandulosa) type. Perennial grass basal area on quadrats dominated by tobosa and burrograss decreased during droughts, but recovery was relatively rapid. Antecedent precipitation was associated with only 10 to 38% of the variation in perennial grass basal area. Perennial forb densities were low and fluctuated among years in all types. Annual forbs and grasses displayed large fluctuations in densities among years. The necessity of basing management of Chihuahuan Desert ranges on the perennial grass component is borne out by the low densities of palatable perennial forbs, and the extreme fluctuation and unpredictability in densities of annual forbs and grasses.

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