• Biological and physical factors influencing Acacia constricta and Prosopis velutina establishment in the Sonoran Desert

      Cox, J. R.; Alba-Avila, A.; Rice, R. W.; Cox, J. N. (Society for Range Management, 1993-01-01)
      Over the past century woody plants have increased in abundance on sites formerly occupied by grasslands in the Sonoran Desert. Woody plant invasion has been associated with a multitude of biological and physical factors. This study was conducted to determine temperature, soil, fire, rodent, and livestock effects on the germination and establishment of whitethorn acacia (Acacia constricta Benth.) and velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina (Woot.) Sarg.). Optimum termination temperatures for both shrubs ranged from 26 to 31 degrees C, and seedling emergence was greatest from seed sown at 1 to 2 cm depths in sandy loam soil. Merriams kangaroo rats (Dipodomys merriami) fed seeds in the laboratory removed seed coats and planted embryos at 2 to 4 cm depths in a sandy loam soil. Prescribed fire killed 100% of seed placed on the soil surface but had no measurable effect on the germination of seed planted at 2 cm. After passage by sheep, about 6% of the A. constricta and 13% of the P. velutina seeds germinated while after passage by cattle, only 1% of the A. constricta and 3% of the P. velutina seed terminated. Embryo planting by rodents may improve survival efficiencies for these legunminous shrub seedlings, but seed consumption and passage by sheep and cattle appear to adversely affect seed germination. Dipodomys merriami, rather than domestic livestock, may be responsible for the spread of these shrubs in the Sonoran Desert.