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Abstract

Discovery of distinct mid-elevational bands of blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima Torr.) shrublands on desert mountain slopes in the Mojave Desert caused an investigation of the relationships between environmental factors and Coleogyne distribution. Environmental factors were quantitatively examined to determine which were significant predictors of Coleogyne density at upper-elevational limits (ecotones) in the Spring Mountains of southern Nevada. Path analysis revealed significant, direct causal effects of air temperature, soil moisture, soil depth, and percent litter cover on the distribution of Coleogyne. Specifically, air temperature was a significant positive predictor, while soil moisture, soil depth, and percent litter cover were significant negative predictors of Coleogyne density, with the effects of other environmental variables parceled out. Path analysis also indicated that indirect effects of soil pH, bulk density, compaction, percent pore space, organic matter, soil temperature, salinity, cryptogam, and percent bare soil and rock cover on Coleogyne density were substantially more potent than their direct casual effects. Environmental attributes associated with elevational changes correlate with and may determine the density of Coleogyne shrubs at upper ecotones in southern Nevada.

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