, Volume 73, Issue 4, pp 543-552

Pattern and mortality in Colorado Desert plants

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We tested for intraspecific interference among Colorado Desert shrubs using an integrated analysis of spatial pattern and juvenile mortality. The data set included 7,000 woody perennials of 24 species in a mapped hectare of Joshua Tree National Monument, California. The site is dominated by Ambrosia dumosa (62.0% of the stems), with Larre tridentata a conspicuous secondary species (2.3% of the stems). Analyses of static pattern for common species showed: (1) aggregated adults and juveniles for Ambrosia dumosa, Erigonum fasciculatum, Mirabilis bigelovii, and Sphaeralcea ambigua, with more aggregation among juveniles than adults; (2) randomly distributed adults and juveniles for Krameria grayi, Opuntia rasmosissima, Simondsia chinensis, and Yucca schidigera. The summed volumes and distances between nearest conspecific neighbors were positively correlated for Ambrosia dumosa and Larrea tridentata, but not significantly correlated for eight remaining species with ≥100 individuals. Static pattern suggests only weak evidence for negative interactions in Ambrosia and Larrea, and little evidence for other species. Alternative mechanisms other than negative interaction that could give rise to these static patterns are discussed. Juvenile mortality was documented for four common species (Ambrosia dumosa, Eriogonum fasciculatum, Mirabilis bigelovii, and Sphaeralcea ambigua) that experienced substantial mortality. Analyses show: (1) the proportion of individuals that died was independent of the initial density of conspecifics; (2) distance to conspecific adults did not differ for juveniles that died versus those that survived; and (3) death was no more likely for juveniles that contacted other plants than for those that were isolated. The exception was a vine, Mirabilis bigelovii, whose juveniles survived better in contact with other plants. In sum, neither spatial pattern nor patterns of mortality showed clear evidence of negative intraspecific interference.