Spatial heterogeneity in Chihuahuan Desert vegetation: Implications for sampling methods in semi-arid ecosystems

Laura F Huenneke, Dennis Clason, Esteban Muldavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

76 Scopus citations


Patchiness of above-ground vegetation, such as that in semi-arid grasslands and shrublands, can pose problems in sampling plant cover, biomass and productivity. We present a method of measuring above-ground plant biomass and production that can be applied consistently among vegetation types and that generates seasonal, spatially-explicit results. Results from 15 sites within the Jornada Basin (Chihuahuan Desert, New Mexico, U.S.A.) confirm considerable patchiness and non-normal distributions of plant biomass, even in grasslands. However, tests of adequacy of sample size and of sample error associated with the regression-based estimates of biomass confirmed that the estimates of above-ground net primary productivity are sufficiently precise to be useful in comparisons of both shrub-dominated and grassland sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-270
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes



  • Bouteloua eriopoda
  • Chihuahuan Desert
  • Jornada LTER program
  • Larrea tridentata
  • Net primary productivity
  • Prosopis glandulosa
  • Semi-arid ecosystems
  • Spatial heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Ecology

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