We assessed species composition, richness and abundance of understory vegetation, as well as arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) inoculum potential on the San Francisco Peaks, tallest mountains in Arizona, crossing a steep, south-facing elevational gradient. These mountains have a high conservation value due to their rare habitats but previous vegetation studies have been limited. Because mature trees in the Pinaceae do not form associations with AM fungi, there may be more variation in plant community and AM fungal associations in coniferous forest than in ecosystems where all species associate with AM fungi. Differences in species composition between forest types reflected differences in the historical disturbance regimes. Species richness was highest in ponderosa pine forest (32.6 ± 1.4 per 1000 m 2 plot), although plant abundance was highest in aspen forest (49.4 ± 3.8%). Ponderosa pine and bristlecone pine forest were both high in species richness and contained species which were tolerant of frequent, low-intensity fire. Exotic species richness and abundance were highest in the lower elevations, which were also areas of high species richness and greater anthropogenic disturbance. Arbuscular mycorrhizal inoculum potential varied widely (1.2-80.1%), decreasing with increases in tree cover. We suggest indicator species that may be of use in monitoring these forests under changing climate and fire regimes.
- Arbuscular mycorrhizae
- Soil ecology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law