The February edition of ESA's Ecological Monographs features major research papers regarding a wide range of ecological topics. A sampling of these topics is listed below.
Desert Shrubs and the Formation of Resource Islands
Desert ecosystems are some of the most uninhabitable places in the world. The plants and animals of deserts display extraordinary evolutionary adaptations designed to withstand or even circumvent the driest of seasons. James Reynolds, a plant ecologist from Duke University, and Ross Virginia, a soil ecologist from Dartmouth College, headed a team of researches located in the Jornada Basin of southern New Mexico to explore and understand the survival strategies of two successful shrub species in the semiarid grasslands of the southwestern United States and how changes in the amount and seasonality of rainfall may affect these plants in the future.
A three-year field study has shown that when desert shrubs establish themselves in suitable places on the desert floor, a microclimate below the shrub canopy is created. These tiny reserves are the homes for many soil microorganisms that are essential in maintaining soil health. Scientists have observed that the areas outside of these shrubs are more exposed to wind and rain which make these places unsuitable for plant life. Consequently, each individual shrub site contains the necessary elements for survival which scientists call "resource islands." These islands are preferred sites for the regeneration of shrubs and other herbaceous plants that would otherwise die without them. The coexistence between plants and soil organisms within this unique system has made it possible for life to flourish even within the harshest of environments.
The Effects of Flooding on Black Ash Trees
Experts are just beginning to understand the ecological implications of global warming. Scientists conclude that natural disturbances in forests (fires, insect outbreaks, windstorms, et
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