The desert is a difficult place to live. Plants are often widely spaced due to competition for rainwater. But, what if the plants were given additional water? Would they grow closer together and lessen their chances of survival?
This article will explore this question by discussing three different studies in which desert plants are given more water and how that changes their distribution in the ecosystem.
The first study, published in the journal of Functional Ecology by a team of scientists from Arizona State University and other institutions found that competition for water between two species not typically associated with arid environments increased when they were given more rainfall.
The plants studied are known as mesquite trees and salt cedar trees; both can survive long periods without rain because their roots extend deep into the ground to find groundwater. When they are drenched in additional water, however, these same root systems compete intensely for the resource – this time seeking it aboveground instead of below.
This leads to an increase in mortality rates among one or both types of plant. A second study, also published in Functional Ecology looks at what happens when typical desert wildlife is introduced