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Arizona State University (2010)

Plant Community Composition along the Historic Verde River Irrigation System : Does Hydrochory Play a Role ?

Betsch, Jacqueline Michelle

Titre : Plant Community Composition along the Historic Verde River Irrigation System : Does Hydrochory Play a Role ?

Auteur : Betsch, Jacqueline Michelle

Université de soutenance : Arizona State University (ASU)

Grade : Master of Science (MS) Biology 2010

Résumé
As an industrial society, humans have increasingly separated agricultural processes from natural ecosystems. Many areas of the Southwestern US, however, maintain traditional practices that link agricultural systems to the natural environment. One such practice, diverting river water into fields via earthen irrigation canals, allows ditch water to recharge groundwater and riparian vegetation to prosper along canal banks. As there is growing interest in managing landscapes for multiple ecosystem services, this study was undertaken to determine if irrigation canals function as an extension of the riparian corridor. I was specifically interested in determining if the processes within semi-arid streams that drive riparian plant community structure are manifested in earthen irrigation ditches. I examined herbaceous and woody vegetation along the middle Verde River, AZ, USA and three adjacent irrigation ditches across six months. I also collected sieved hydrochores—seeds dispersing through water—within ditches and the river twelve times. Results indicate that ditch vegetation was similar to streamside river vegetation in abundance (cover and basal area) due to surface water availability but more diverse than river streamside vegetation due to high heterogeneity. Compositionally, herbaceous vegetation along the ditch was most similar to the river banks, while low disturbance fostered woody vegetation along the ditches similar to high floodplain and river terrace vegetation. Hydrochore richness and abundance within the river was dependent on seasonality and stream discharge, but these relationships were dampened in the ditches. Species-specific strategies of hydrochory, however, did emerge in both systems. Strategies include pulse species, which disperse via hydrochory in strict accordance with their restricted dispersal windows, constant species, which are year round hydrochores, and combination species, which show characteristics of both. There was high overlap in the composition of hydrochores in the two systems, with obligate wetland species abundant in both. Upland species were more seasonally constant and abundant in the ditch water than the river. The consistency of river processes and similarity of vegetation suggest that earthen irrigation ditches do function as an extension of the riparian corridor. Thus, these man-made irrigation ditches should be considered by stakeholders for their multiple ecosystem services

Sujets : Biology / Ecology / Hydrochory / Irrigation canal / Plant community / Verde River

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