Biology ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-11-2022


Understanding how fine-scale changes in soil characteristics and plant community composition affect ecosystem functioning is key to predicting how biome shifts will affect regional and global carbon cycling. This is crucial in the dryland biomes of the US Southwest, projected to be one of the regions most affected by climate change. We examined fine-scale drivers of ecosystem function within two biomes – a Chihuahuan Desert grassland and Plains/Chihuahuan Desert ecotone – via long-term vegetation data, micrometeorological data, eddy covariance carbon flux measurements, and soil water and texture, finding that the ecotone site had over 30% higher soil water content, over 20% greater plant biomass, and sequestered 1.3 times more carbon than the desert grassland. We attribute this difference to the ecotone having over 70% greater soil clay content than the desert grassland. Our analyses suggest that site-specific differences in soil texture greatly impact plant community structure, soil water content, and carbon sequestration.




Carbon sequestration, plant community, ecotone, grassland, soil texture, Chihuahuan Desert

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Marcy Litvak

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Rudgers

Third Committee Member

Scott Collins