, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 215-226

Plant response to utility right of way construction in the Mojave Desert

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Abstract

Disturbance of flora from utility construction tends to generate new plant growth. This growth changes productivity, diversity, and stability. Although the enhancement of vegetation may balance out the biomass destroyed by the original disturbance, it often adversely affects the quality of the vegetation. Percentage composition of the dominant long-lived perennials combined with quantitative measures are used to assess longterm effects of utility corridor construction. Differential effects of enhancement of vegetation are found along road edges, enhancement under wires of powerlines, and over trenches dug for pipelines. Areas under powerline pylons seem to receive the greatest damage and also show the most variable recovery of vegetation. Significant recovery rates are noticeable where the time span between year of construction has allowed for considerable regrowth of the older corridor. Recovery rates depend on soil type, landform, and other physical features of the disturbed sites. Drastic disturbance in one area or transect site may impede vegetation recovery, whereas slight disturbance might enhance vegetation in another, tending to offset the effect of the drastic disturbance. Disturbed areas and control areas may appear to have similar vegetation covers, biomasses, and densities, but these similarities often vanish when one examines qualitative aspects, such as proportion of long-lived species and presence of characteristic dominants.