, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 125-140

Environmental relationships and vegetation associates of columnar cacti in the northern Sonoran Desert

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Abstract

The environmental distribution, habitat segregation, and vegetation associates of the columnar cacti Carnegiea gigantea, Stenocereus thurberi, and Lophocereus schottii were examined in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona. Three primary environmental gradients were identified with principal components analysis of environmental data: soil texture, elevation/nutrients, and xericness (based on slope aspect and angle). Environmental influents of spatial variation in density were modeled with ordinary least squares regression analysis, and common associates were identified with two-way indicator species analysis for each cactus. Of the three cacti, Carnegiea gigantea occurred over the broadest ecological range of habitats, but was densest on coarse, granitically derived alluvial soils of flat upper bajadas and basin floors, where it was associated with Larrea tridentata, Ambrosia deltoidea, and Opuntia fulgida. Stenocereus thurberi reached its maximum densities on coarse sandy soils of steep, south-facing granitic slopes, with Encelia farinosa, Jatropha cuneata, and Opuntia bigelovii as associates. Lophocereus schottii was restricted to very coarse, granitically derived alluvial soils in the southern part of the monument, where it occurred along wash banks with Beloperone californica, Hymenoclea salsola, Acacia greggii, and Opuntia arbuscula.