Advertisement

Oecologia

, Volume 95, Issue 4, pp 520–524 | Cite as

Effects of kangaroo rat exclusion on vegetation structure and plant species diversity in the Chihuahuan Desert

  • Edward J. Heske
  • James H. Brown
  • Qinfeng Guo
Original Papers

Abstract

Long-term (1977–90) experimental exclusion of three species of kangaroo rats from study plots in the Chihuahuan Desert resulted in significant increases in abundance of a tall annual grass (Aristida adscensionis) and a perennial bunch grass (Eragrostis lehmanniana). This change in the vegetative cover affected use of these plots by several other rodent species and by foraging birds. The mechanism producing this change probably involves a combination of decreased soil disturbance and reduced predation on large-sized seeds when kangaroo rats are absent. Species diversity of summer annual dicots was greater on plots where kangaroo rats were present, as predicted by keystone predator models. However, it is not clear whether this was caused directly by activities of the kangaroo rats or indirectly as a consequence of the increase in grass cover. No experimental effect on species diversity of winter annual dicots was detected. Our study site was located in a natural transition between desert scrub and grassland, where abiotic conditions and the effects of organisms may be particularly influential in determining the structure and composition of vegetation. Under these conditions kangaroo rats have a dramatic effect on plant cover and species composition.

Key words

Keystone species Dipodomys Plant-animal interactions Chihuahuan Desert Species diversity 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Brown DE (1982) Biotic communities of the American Southwest-United States and Mexico. Desert Plants 4: 1–342Google Scholar
  2. Brown JH, Heske EJ (1990) Control of a desert-grassland transition by a keystone rodent guild. Science 250: 1705–1707Google Scholar
  3. Brown JH, Munger JC (1985) Experimental manipulation of a desert rodent community: food addition and species removal. Ecology 66: 1545–1563Google Scholar
  4. Brown JH, Davidson DW, Munger JC, Inouye RS (1986) Experimental community ecology: the desert granivore system. In: Diamond J, Case TJ (eds) Community ecology. Harper and Row, New York, pp 41–61Google Scholar
  5. Carpenter SR, Kitchell JF (1988) Consumer control of lake productivity. BioScience 38: 764–769Google Scholar
  6. Carpenter SR, Kitchell JF, Hodgson JR (1985) Cascading trophic interactions and lake productivity. BioScience 35: 634–639Google Scholar
  7. Castilla JC, Duran LR (1985) Human exclusion from the rocky intertidal zone of central Chile: the effects on Concholepus concholepus (Gastropoda). Oikos 45: 391–399Google Scholar
  8. Caswell H (1978) Predator-mediated coexistence: a nonequilibrium model. Am Nat 112: 127–154Google Scholar
  9. Connell JH (1978) Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Science 199: 1302–1310Google Scholar
  10. Davidson DW, Samson DA, Inouye RS (1985) Granivory in the Chihuahuan Desert: interactions within and between trophic levels. Ecology 66: 486–502Google Scholar
  11. Dayton PK (1984) Processes structuring some marine communities: are they general? In: Abele LG, Simberloff DS, Strong DR, Thistle A (eds) Ecological communities: conceptual issues and the evidence. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton pp. 181–197Google Scholar
  12. Estes JA, Palmisano JF (1974) Sea otters: their role in structuring nearshore communities. Science 185: 1058–1060Google Scholar
  13. Heske EJ, Brown JH, Mistry S (in press) Long-term experimental study of a Chihuahuan Desert rodent community: 13 years of competition. EcologyGoogle Scholar
  14. Heske EJ, Campbell M (1991) Effects of an 11-year livestock exclosure on rodent and ant numbers in the Chihuahuan Desert, southeastern Arizona. Southwest Nat 36: 89–93Google Scholar
  15. Huntley N, Inouye R (1988) Pocket gophers in ecosystems: patterns and mechanisms. BioScience 38: 786–793Google Scholar
  16. Hurlbert SH (1984) Pseudoreplication and the design of ecological experiments. Ecol Monogr 54: 187–211Google Scholar
  17. Hutchinson GE (1951) Copepodology for the ornithologist. Ecology 32: 571–577Google Scholar
  18. Inouye RS, Byers GS, Brown JH (1980) Effects of predation and competition on survivorship, fecundity, and community structure of desert annuals. Ecology 61: 1344–1351Google Scholar
  19. Kearny IH, Peebles RH (1960) Arizona flora, 2nd edition. Univ. California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  20. Ludwig JA, Reynolds JF (1988) Statistical ecology, John Wiley and Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Martinsen GD, Cushman JH, Whitham TG (1990) Impact of pocket gopher disturbance on plant species diversity in a shortgrass prairie community. Oecologia 83: 132–138Google Scholar
  22. Munger JC, Brown JH (1981) Competition in desert rodents: an experiment with semipermeable enclosures. Science 211: 510–512Google Scholar
  23. Naiman RJ (1988) Animal influences on ecosystem dynamics. BioScience 38: 750–752Google Scholar
  24. Naiman RJ, Johnston CA, Kelley JC (1988) Alteration of North American streams by beaver. BioScience 38: 753–762Google Scholar
  25. Norris JJ (1950) Effect of rodents, rabbits, and cattle on two vegetation types in semidesert range land. Bull 353 Agr Exp Sta New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, Las CrucesGoogle Scholar
  26. Paine RT (1966) Food web complexity and species diversity. Am Nat 100: 65–75Google Scholar
  27. Pastor J, Naiman RJ, Dewey B, McInnes P (1988) Moose, microbes, and the boreal forest. BioScience 38: 770–777Google Scholar
  28. Rice WR (1989) Analyzing tables of statistical tests. Evolution 43: 223–225Google Scholar
  29. Samson DA, Philippi TE, Davidson DW (1992) Granivory and competition as determinants of annual plant diversity in the Chihuahuan Desert. Oikos 65: 61–80Google Scholar
  30. Stoddard LA, Smith AD (1975) Range management, 3rd edition. McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Swihart RK (1991) Influence of Marmota monax on vegetation in hayfields. J Mammal 72: 791–795Google Scholar
  32. Thompson DB, Brown JH, Spencer WD (1991) Indirect facilitation of granivorous birds by desert rodents: experimental evidence from foraging patterns. Ecology 72: 852–863Google Scholar
  33. Vance RR (1978) Predation and resource partitioning in one predator-two prey model communities. Am Nat 112: 797–813Google Scholar
  34. Whickler AD, Detling JK (1988) Ecological consequences of prairie dog disturbances. BioScience 38: 778–785Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward J. Heske
    • 1
  • James H. Brown
    • 1
  • Qinfeng Guo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

Personalised recommendations