Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Sand Sagebrush - Broom Smokebush Sand Scrub Group
Colloquial Name: Chihuahuan Desert Sand Scrub
Hierarchy Level: Group
Type Concept: This group includes the open desert scrub of vegetated coppice dunes and sandy plains found in the Chihuahuan Desert. Stands are usually dominated by Artemisia filifolia or Psorothamnus scoparius that anchor coppice dunes or occur on open sandsheet flats. They may also be dominated or codominated by Atriplex canescens, Ephedra torreyana, Ephedra trifurca, Poliomintha incana, Rhus microphylla, and Larrea tridentata, usually with 10-30% total vegetation cover. Yucca elata, Gutierrezia sarothrae, Bouteloua eriopoda, and Sporobolus flexuosus are commonly present. This group includes degraded sandy desert plains grasslands now dominated by Artemisia filifolia and Prosopis glandulosa.
Diagnostic Characteristics: A sparse to moderately dense (5-30% cover), low-statured shrubland (<2 m tall) dominated by Psorothamnus scoparius or Artemisia filifolia on sandy substrate. Atriplex canescens, Ephedra torreyana, Ephedra trifurca, Poliomintha incana, and Rhus microphylla may also dominate or codominate this coppice dune and sandsheet scrub.
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features: Prosopis glandulosa is the dominant and diagnostic shrub on southern stands and declines northward. Artemisia filifolia is common on northern stands and is less prevalent going southward. Prosopis is an indicator of the desert flora and Artemisia filifolia is an indicator of sand substrates. Poliomintha incana and Psorothamnus scoparius are also indicators of desert sand habitats but have more restricted distribution. The other sometimes dominant shrub species (Atriplex canescens, Ephedra torreyana, Ephedra trifurca, and Rhus microphylla) also occur in other habitats.
Classification Comments: Heavy grazing in the late 1800s and early 1900s may have caused this shrubland to increase through degradation of semi-desert grassland on sandy plains. Artemisia filifolia, a dominant and diagnostic species of this group, is a widespread psammophilous shrub that extends into other biogeographic regions, including the Western Great Plains and the Colorado Plateau. Occurrence within the Chihuahuan Desert biogeographic area or presence of Chihuahuan Desert indicator species is diagnostic of stands in this group.
Similar NVC Types:
G491 Chihuahuan Sandy Plains Semi-Desert Grassland, note:
G819 North American Warm Desert Ruderal Scrub, note:
Physiognomy and Structure: This group is an extremely xeromorphic, deciduous, desert shrubland generally without succulents. It has a sparse to moderately dense (5-30% cover), short-shrub layer (<2 m tall). The understory and inter-shrub spaces are generally sparse or absent of vegetation, but perennial grasses may be moderately abundant on stable sandsheets.
Floristics: Vegetation in this group is usually dominated by Artemisia filifolia or Psorothamnus scoparius that anchor coppice dunes or occur on sandsheets or sandy flats. They may also be dominated or codominated by Atriplex canescens, Ephedra torreyana, Ephedra trifurca, Poliomintha incana, Rhus microphylla, and Larrea tridentata, usually with 10-30% total vegetation cover. Yucca elata, Gutierrezia sarothrae, Bouteloua eriopoda, and Sporobolus flexuosus are commonly present. Other common herbaceous species include Abronia spp., Achnatherum hymenoides, Heliotropium convolvulaceum, Muhlenbergia pungens, and Penstemon ambiguus. In northern stands, Prosopis glandulosa becomes less common or absent. This group includes degraded sandy desert plains grasslands now dominated by Artemisia filifolia and Prosopis glandulosa.
Dynamics: Artemisia filifolia is common on sites with coarse, deep sand (S. Yanoff pers. comm. 2007). These sites are also more susceptible to grazing pressure. It is important to differentiate between (1) coppice dunes / associated interdune and (2) sandsheets. Invasive mesquite dominates on coppice dunes, especially where the interdune contains an argillic horizon layer with increased clay content. Mesquite produces large taproots and long lateral roots which enable it to extract moisture from deeper depths and the associated interdune. On sandsheets, as noted by Steven Yanoff (pers. comm.), sandsage dominates. These soils are typically deeper and coarser textured (sand and loamy sand). The coarse texture allows rapid infiltration and helps decrease wicking of soil moisture to the surface via capillary rise. Most associations listed in this group are common on sandsheets (Artemisia filifolia, Psorothamnus scoparius, and Rhus microphylla) with invasive ~Prosopis glandulosa / Atriplex canescens Ruderal Shrubland (CEGL001382)$$ occurring on coppice dunes / interdune areas and ~Prosopis glandulosa / Sporobolus flexuosus Ruderal Shrubland (CEGL001386)$$ occurring in both habitats.
Environmental Description: This group includes the open desert scrub of vegetated coppice dunes and sandsheets found in the Chihuahuan Desert. It often occurs on the lee sides of large playas in basins where sand accumulates, but may include deep sandy plains.
Geographic Range: This desert scrub group occurs on dunes and sandsheets found in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Nations: MX, US
States/Provinces: MXCH, NM, TX
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)|
Southwest Plateau and Plains Dry Steppe and Shrub Province
Confident or certain
White Mountains-San Francisco Peaks-Mogollon Rim Section
Confident or certain
Omernik Ecoregions: 22:P, 22g:P, 22m:P, 23:P, 23a:P, 24:P, 24a:P, 24b:P, 24c:P, 24d:P, 24e:P, 24f:P, 24g:P, 24h:P, 25:P, 25i:P, 25j:P, 25k:P, 26:P, 26h:P, 26n:P, 26o:P, 26q:P, 30:P, 30d:P, 31:P, 31b:P, 79:P, 79a:P, 79b:P, 79e:P
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Synonomy: < MLRA 42 - Southern Desertic Basin (SD-1) Deep Sand (NRCS 2006a)
< MLRA 42 - Southern Desertic Basin (SD-1) Sandy (NRCS 2006a)
< MLRA 42 - Southern Desertic Basin (SD-2) Deep Sand (NRCS 2006a)
< MLRA 42 - Southern Desertic Basin (SD-2) Sandy (NRCS 2006a)
Concept Author(s): D.E. Brown, C.H. Lowe, and C.P. Pase (1979)
Author of Description: K.A. Schulz and E. Muldavin
Acknowledgements: E. Muldavin
Version Date: 05Nov2015
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