Rio Salado Mixed Grass


The Rio Salado is an ephemeral tributary of the Rio Grande on the west side of the Sevilleta NWR, flowing west by northwest to east by southeast. Rio Salado Grassland & Rio Salado Larrea are two study sites established in 1989. These sites were established as counterparts to sites at Five Points. Between 1989 and 1998, vegetation, litter decomposition, and ground dwelling arthropod and rodent populations were studied at both sites. Core studies at these sites were largely terminated in 1998, although rodent populations are still monitored at the Rio Salado Larrea site as the Small Mammal Exclosure Study's Larrea plots are co-located there. Rio Salado Grassland is the location of Met Station 44.

The Rio Salado study sites are accessed by taking the San Acacia exit, going west and then taking the frontage road back north to the Sevilleta NWR gate.  After entering the refuge turn left after 0.2 mi and take this road 1.4 mi to a "T" in the road at the power lines.  An earthen berm stops road travel here and the met station is located about 300 m west on the blocked road.

Site Details: 

The Rio Salado Grassland site is Plains-Mesa Sand Scrub habitat characterized by stabilized deep-sand dominated by coppice dunes of honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa). Co-dominant shrubs are sand sagebrush (Artemesia filifolia) and fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), with winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), Mormon tea (Ephedra torreyana), broom indigobush (Psorothamnus scoparius), soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca), and broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) as other notable shrubs. One-seed juniper (Juniperus monosperma) is present as well, especially along shallow washes. Compared to the Black Grama Core Site, grass cover is sparse and dominated by poverty threeawn (Aristida divaricata), Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides), mesa and spike dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus & S. contractus), as well as patches of black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda). Notable forbs included spectaclepod (Dimorphocarpa wislizenii), tansy aster (Machaeranthera tanacetifolia), desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), Abert buckwheat (Eriogonum abertianum), dwarf gilia (Ipomopsis pumila), rattlesnake weed (Chamaesyce albomarginata), blunt tansymustard (Descarania obtusa), plains hiddenflower (Cryptantha crassisepala), and Rocky Mountain zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora).