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Saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima) invasion alters organic matter dynamics in a desert stream


Theodore A. Kennedy, Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, USGS, 2255 N. Gemini Dr., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. We investigated the impacts of saltcedar invasion on organic matter dynamics in a spring-fed stream (Jackrabbit Spring) in the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada, U.S.A., by experimentally manipulating saltcedar abundance.

2. Saltcedar heavily shaded Jackrabbit Spring and shifted the dominant organic matter inputs from autochthonous production that was available throughout the year to allochthonous saltcedar leaf litter that was strongly pulsed in the autumn. Specifically, reaches dominated by saltcedar had allochthonous litter inputs of 299 g ash free dry mass (AFDM) m−2 year−1, macrophyte production of 15 g AFDM m−2 year−1 and algal production of 400 g AFDM m−2 year−1, while reaches dominated by native riparian vegetation or where saltcedar had been experimentally removed had allochthonous litter inputs of 7–34 g AFDM m−2 year−1, macrophyte production of 118–425 g AFDM m−2 year−1 and algal production of 640–900 g AFDM m−2 year−1.

3. A leaf litter breakdown study indicated that saltcedar also altered decomposition in Jackrabbit Spring, mainly through its influence on litter quality rather than by altering the environment for decomposition. Decomposition rates for saltcedar were lower than for ash (Fraxinus velutina), the dominant native allochthonous litter type, but faster than for bulrush (Scirpus americanus), the dominant macrophyte in this system.