Direct and indirect effects of urbanization on soil and plant nutrients in desert ecosystems of the Phoenix metropolitan area, Arizona (USA)

Rachel Davies, Sharon Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Desert landscaping has become a dominant land cover type in arid US cities and often includes native plant species. Does replacement of native plant distribution in urban areas also reestablish ecological functioning characteristic of natural deserts? We compared ecological processes in three landscape types that are common to the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona (USA): residential desert yards created from former lawns, Sonoran Desert preserves within the city, and Sonoran Desert preserves outside the city boundaries. Canopy cover, abundance of herbivorous insects, and soil properties (concentration of inorganic nitrogen (N), soil moisture and organic matter content, and water-holding capacity) were higher in residential desert yards than in native desert sites located both within and outside of the city. Furthermore, soil resources in desert yards were not organized around plant canopies, departing from the predictable resource island pattern that is characteristic of natural deserts. Intentional human manipulation and land use history accounts for these differences, while the urban environment contributes only subtly to soil N concentrations beneath plant canopies. While the use of desert landscaping may have important water conservation benefits, it does not help to mitigate the well-documented excess of reactive N within the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-317
Number of pages23
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 8 2010

Keywords

  • Nitrogen
  • Residential landscape
  • Sonoran Desert
  • Urban ecology
  • Xeriscape

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies

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