Anthropogenic degradation of the southern California desert ecosystem and prospects for natural recovery and restoration

Lovich, J. E., D. Bainbridge
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Large areas of the southern California desert ecosystem have been negatively affected by off-road vehicle use, overgrazing by domestic livestock, agriculture, urbanization, construction of roads, air pollution, and other activities. Secondary contributions to degradation include the proliferation of exotic plant species and a higher frequency of anthropogenic fire. Effects of these impacts include alteration or destruction of macro- and micro- vegetation elements, establishment of annual plant communities dominated by exotics, soil compaction, and increased erosion. Published estimates of recovery time are based on return to predisturbance levels of biomass, cover, density, community structure, or soil characteristics. Recovery to predisturbance plant cover and biomass may take 50-300 years, while complete ecosystem recovery may require over 3,000 years. Restorative intervention can be used to enhance the success and rate of recovery, but the costs are high and the probability for long-term success is low to moderate. Given the sensitivity of desert habitats to disturbance and the slow rate of natural recovery, the best management option is to limit the extent and intensity of impacts as much as possible.
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Montana State University

The Range Science Information System (RSIS) bibliography has over 1,300 peer-reviewed bibliographic citations to professional journal articles and documents focused on: riparian, weeds, rangeland, wildlife, vegetation and soils research. Article bibliograhic citations include additional research information such as: the type of article (primary research, synthesis article or case study), location of study, a summary of methods or area of influence, major findings or main points, topic categories, and annotations.