Plant responses to an edaphic gradient across an active sand dune/desert boundary in the great basin desert.

D.M. Rosenthal, F. Ludwig, L.A. Donovan

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40 Citations (Scopus)


In arid ecosystems, variation in precipitation causes broad-scale spatial heterogeneity in soil moisture, but differences in soil texture, development, and plant cover can also create substantial local soil moisture heterogeneity. The boundary between inland desert sand dunes and adjacent desert habitats exhibits abrupt changes in soil and vegetation characteristics that may be associated with differences in plant-available water and nutrients. We hypothesized that differences in plant water status between habitats would mirror changes in soil texture and vegetation cover. Because the dunes have higher water availability, we predicted that plants on dunes would have higher plant water potential () and be less water use efficient than plants off dunes. We tested these predictions for three speciesPsoralidium lanceolatum (a C3 perennial N-fixing subshrub), Stipa hymenoides (a C3 perennial bunchgrass), and Salsola iberica (a C4 annual)on actively moving desert dunes and adjacent stabilized dunes at Little Sahara Dunes, Utah. Plants on the dunes maintained higher predawn (pd) water potentials (>-1.5 MPa) throughout the summer season, whereas off-dune plants were water stressed from July on (pd
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-255
JournalInternational Journal of Plant Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • carbon-isotope discrimination
  • organic-matter gradient
  • soil-water dynamics
  • larrea-tridentata
  • particle-size
  • mojave desert
  • anthoxanthum-odoratum
  • mineral-nutrition
  • phosphorus levels
  • predawn plant


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