Rio Salado Mixed Shrub


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 because the Small Mammal Exclosure Study's Larrea plots are co-located there. Rio Salado Grassland is the location 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 Larrea site is characterized as Chihuahuan Desert Scrub, dominated by creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), with honey mesquite, fourwing saltbush, purple pricklypear (O. macrocentra), and broom snakeweed as co-occurring shrubs. Dominant grasses are black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda), galleta (Pleuraphis jamesii), burrograss (Scleropogon brevifolia), and fluffgrass (Dasyochloa pulchellum). Common forb species include desert holly (Acourtia nana), spectaclepod (Dimorphocarpa spp.), blackfoot daisey (Melampodium leucanthum), twinleaf (Senna bauhinoides), globemallow (Sphaeralcea wrightii), and plains hiddenflower (Cryptantha crassisepala). While individual creosote bushes tend to be larger, overall plant cover is less than at the creosote core site at Five Points, with more exposed embedded stones and gravel on the soil surface, creating a pavement-like appearance.