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Vegetation environment relationships and ecological species groups of an Arizona Pinus ponderosa landscape, USA

Summary: Vegetation ­environment relationships and ecological species groups
of an Arizona Pinus ponderosa landscape, USA
Scott R. Abella* and W. Wallace Covington
Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, 86011-5017, USA; *Author for
correspondence (e-mail: scott.abella@nau.edu)
Received 12 May 2005; accepted in revised form 11 January 2006
Key words: Ecosystem classification, Forest, Ground flora, Indicator species, Soil, Understory
Pinus ponderosa forests occupy numerous topographic and soil complexes across vast areas of the south-
western United States, yet few data exist on species distributions and vegetation ­environment relationships
for these environmentally diverse landscapes. We measured topography, soils, and vegetation on 66, 0.05-ha
plots within a 110,000-ha P. ponderosa landscape in northern Arizona, USA, to discern vegetation ­envi-
ronment relationships on this landscape. We analyzed associations of environmental variables with plant
communities and with single-species distributions, and we classified ecological species groups (co-occurring
plant species exhibiting similar environmental affinities). Gradients in community composition paralleled
gradients in soil texture, available water, organic C, total N, and geographic precipitation patterns. Soil
parent material, affected by the presence or absence of volcanic activity, is a primary factor constraining
vegetation patterns on this landscape. Using discriminant analysis, we built a model that correctly classified
the most important of four grasses (Bouteloua gracilis, Muhlenbergia montana, Sporobolus interruptus, or
Festuca arizonica) on 70 ­80% of plots based on five environmental variables related to soil moisture and


Source: Abella, Scott R. - School of Life Sciences, University of Nevada at Las Vegas


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology