Observation: Long-Term Increases in Mesquite Canopy Cover in a North Texas Savanna
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It is necessary to quantify rates of woody plant encroachment on southwestern USA rangelands to determine the economic feasibility of treatments designed to manage these plants. This study observed changes in honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) canopy cover over a 20-year period (1976-1995) in 2 treatments: an untreated area that initially had a moderately dense mesquite stand (14.6% cover), and an area cleared of mesquite with root-plowing in 1974. Canopy cover of mesquite was estimated from scanned color-infrared aerial photograph images by manually delineating mesquite canopies with a computer using ArcView software. During the 20 years, mesquite cover in the untreated area increased (P ≤ 0.05) from 14.6 to 58.7%, averaging 2.2 percentage units per year. Cover in the root-plow treatment also significantly increased during the same period from 0 to 21.9% (1.1 percentage units per year), but the rate of increase was significantly lower than in the untreated area because mesquite growth was from new seedlings instead of established plants and/or new seedlings as occurred in the untreated area. Rate of increase was significantly lower from 1976 to 1990 (1.6 and 0.2 percentage units per year) than from 1990 to 1995 (4.1 and 3.7 percentage units per year) in the untreated and root-plow treatment, respectively. These differences were attributed to precipitation which was near normal from 1976 to 1990 but 25% above normal from 1991 to 1995.
Journal of Range Management
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Ansley, R James||Wu, X Ben||Kramp, Betty A