Great Basin Naturalist


Of two salt desert shrub communities studied in Curlew Valley, Utah, the Atriplex confertifolia-dominated community had 15% greater total midsummer phytomass than the Ceratoides lanata community. The larger Atriplex shrubs contained much more woody tissue for support of photosynthetic tissues than did Ceratoides. Atriplex aboveground phytomass and litter were about twice those of Ceratoides. Ceratoides litter was generally fine and easily decomposable, but Atriplex litter contained about equal proportions of coarse, resistant woody tissues and fine, easily decomposable material. Atriplex root phytomass was 1.3 times that of Ceratoides at the 2–30 cm depth, but at depths below 30 cm, Ceratoides exhibited up to three times greater root phytomass and had 23% more root mass overall.

Net aboveground community primary production was estimated to be about one-third greater in the Atriplex than Ceratoides community. Turnover times for readily decomposable aboveground litter were quite similar, but, because Atriplex produced coarser litter, its overall rate was somewhat slower than that of Ceratoides.

Analyses of selected minerals in plant parts, litter, and soil revealed that about 90% of the mineral capital is in the soil, mostly within organic matter. Nearly equivalent pools of mineral elements were found in the two communities, except for greater Na in the Atriplex community.