Shrub expansion into grasslands can cause abrupt changes in ecosystem processes. Creosote (Larrea tridentata) is a native shrub in warm, arid deserts of the southwestern US and has taken over C4 grasslands. A limited freeze tolerance is thought to dictate the northern boundary of creosote and the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge occurs near to the northern extent of creosote. Cold temperatures are known to damage creosote. In laboratory trials, temperatures of -25 for 1 hour lead to xylem damaging embolism in nearly 100% of stems and temperatures of -24 C lead to seedling death in the lab. Sevilleta LTER meteorological data from a station located within creosote shrublands indicated a low temperature of -20 C between 1999 and 2010. On February 3, 2011 temperatures hit record lows in central New Mexico, reaching -30 C at shrublands within the SNWR. To address how creosote responds to a natural extreme cold events, plots were established to monitor creosote initial response and regrowth following the cold event. Initial surveys will determine canopy death and subsequent surveys of the same individuals will allow us to determine how creosote responds to record cold temperatures.
Plots were established at 6 locations across SNWR. Criteria for site selection included the presence of L. tridentata, flat terrain to limit microtopographic impacts, close proximity to existing meteorological stations, and variation in shrub density between sites. At each site, approximately 200 shrubs were evaluated within circular plots (20m in diameter) with the number of plots at each site varying in shrub density. Initial surveys to determine canopy death were conducted in early April 2011. These surveys consisted of tagging each shrub with an unique ID, estimating canopy death, and measuring maximum canopy height, maximum width and the perpendicular width to max width.
Study Area 1:
Study Area Name: South Gate
Study Area Location: Located across the road from the met station located at South Gate.
North Coordinate: 34.42
South Coordinate: 34.19
East Coordinate: -106.513
West Coordinate: -107.08
Study Area 2:
Study Area Name: Microwave shrubland
Study Area Location: Located near the Microwave tower on the West side of the SNWR. Plots are located 100 to 200 m down the road just East of the tower towards Red Tank. Plots are on the West side of the road.
North Coordinate: 34.42
East Coordinate: -106.518
Study Area 3:
Study Area Name: BurnX shrubland site
Study Area Location: Located near Met station 52b, established near the burn enclosure (BurnX) Black Grama site.