The University of Arizona

Monitoring a half-century of change in a hardwood rangeland.

K.L. Heise, A.M. Merenlender


Changes in rangeland species composition can effect forage quality, ecosystem function, and biological diversity. Unfortunately, documenting species compositional change is difficult due to a lack of accurate historic records. We took advantage of herbarium records dating from the early 1950's to reconstruct the past flora of a 2,168 ha hardwood rangeland in Mendocino County, California, and then compared this to the current flora of the site. An inventory of vascular plants conducted from 1996 to 2001 added 44 native and 15 non-native species bringing the total number of species and infraspecific taxa at the study site to 671. Of the original 612 species recorded prior to this study, 34 native and 1 non-native species could not be relocated. The percentage of non-native species increased from 19% in 1952 to 23% in 2001. Based on estimates from the early 1950's, mid 1980's, and 1996 to 2001, at least 13 non-native species have increased in abundance, while some native species have decreased. Livestock grazing, competition with invasive species, conversions to different vegetation types, and transportation of propagules into the site by vehicles and livestock, combined with the difficulty of relocating rare species, are posed as the most likely causes for the documented changes.



sown grasslands;habitats;Quercus;woodland grasslands;species diversity;ecological succession;invasion;grazing intensity;California;range management;botanical composition;invasive species

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