Terrestrial ecosystems can be more holistically understood by investigating the morphology of landscape mosaics, the assemblage of their ecological communities, and the linkages and feedbacks between the mosaics and communities. The overarching objectives of this study were to: (1) study the abiotic and biotic configurations of landform units as mosaics within a Mojave Desert chronosequence; and (2) elucidate their potential feedbacks, interactions, and dynamics during landform evolution. Seven landform units distributed over three geomorphic ages were identified, including: young bars and swales; intermediate-aged flattened bars, flattened swales, and bioturbation units; and old desert pavements and shrub zones. These landform units were characterized according to abiotic and biotic land surface properties. Landform units were statistically distinct and predictable based on a specific suite of abiotic and biotic properties. Vascular plant functional group and biological soil crust community diversity varied with geomorphology, with greatest diversity associated with bars and shrub zones and lowest diversity associated with desert pavements. Biological soil crust communities were controlled by geomorphic age, surface rock size, and protruding rocks with young bar units having the highest abundance and diversity. Perennial forbs were observed in old shrub zones with small rocks and few protruding rocks. A high clast density and a finer-sized clast distribution were found particularly in desert pavements and flattened swales, and generally inhibited biological soil crust and plant cover. Evolutionary trajectories for landforms of a lower piedmont landscape can be dominated by either abiotic and biotic landform processes. These two trajectories are distinctly different and are associated with their own unique linkages, feedbacks, and dynamics of abiotic and biotic land surface properties, producing a highly diverse desert landscape.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/rebecca_drenovsky/8/