Mesquite: A Long View
Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) is among the most successful plants in Northern México and America"s arid Southwest. Mesquite optimizes pollinator services and reproductive effort, resulting in seeds that persist in herbivore digestive tracts and soil seed banks for extended periods. An extensive root system fully occupies the soil profile long distances from its base, allowing it to harvest water and nutrients with extraordinary efficiency. Root nodules harbor nitrogen-fixing bacteria allowing mesquite to overcome usual nitrogen limitations. Mesquite survival is determined early, but once established, it is long-lived, often benefiting from hardships killing most plants. So with mesquite"s superior adaptations and competitive advantage, why has it only recently dominated desert landscapes? An answer may reside in the literature housing the knowledge of anthropologists and archaeologists studying the Jornada Mogollon, and prehistoric peoples of North America"s warm deserts. Extensive use of mesquite by prehistoric peoples maybe a mechanism for dispersal of desert shrubs during the Holocene and controlling its distribution prior to European influence. A long-view of mesquite demography appears essential for reinterpreting our relationship with mesquite. A relationship that now cost millions of dollars annually to control its abundance and provide for lost ecosystem services.
Ed L. Frederickson, Curtis H. Monger, Eduardo Guevara, and Dan Fredrickson. "Mesquite: A Long View" 6th Biennial Mogollon Archaeology Conference. Las Cruces, New Mexico. Oct. 2010.
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