This is the reference state for the Claypan ecological site. It represents the historic range of variability in the plant communities with the periodic disturbance of fire and grazing. It is dominated by herbaceous plants with few woody species.
Dominant grasses include little bluestem, sideoats grama, big bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass. Other grasses include dropseeds, silver bluestem, Texas cupgrass and Texas wintergrass. Forbs and legumes include englemann daisy, sunflowers, heath aster, yellow neptune, catclaw sensitive-briar and prairie clovers. Woody species are limited with periodic fires and include elms, hackberry, sumacs and plums. Mesquite is a prominent invader on these Claypan sites. The Claypan site is estimated to produce between 3,000 to 6,000 pounds of vegetative production per year in reference condition.
Tallgrasses = Midgrasses Forbs
Shrubs and Trees are a minor component of these sites.
This state represents a change in land use from rangeland to pastureland. The soil structure and biology has been altered and the site is dominated by introduced species. Management of introduced forages requires more inputs than native grasses. Careful consideration should be taken prior to planting to ensure the result meets the desired use. Ratings for forage yields can be found under the Non-irrigated Crop Yield section in Web Soil Survey. As with any fertility management program, current soil tests should be taken before planting and subsequent fertilization of introduced pastures.
The most common forage species on these sites include bermudagrass and Old World bluestems(eg. King Ranch bluestem).
Without brush management, woody species such as mesquite, juniper, elm, or honey locust may invade these sites.
There may be opportunities to plant native grass species on these sites to restore the reference plant communities. The success of this type of restoration is highly variable and depends on the remaining soil resources and past management. This type of endeavor often requires site specific planning and evaluation. However, the species described in the reference state are a good resource for initial planning of any restoration project.
This state describes the invaded, woody dominated plant community of the Claypan site. The ecological processes are dominated by woody species including mesquite, honey locust, elm, and juniper species. Some herbaceous plants persist under the woody canopy or in interspaces. Usually, shade-tolerant species like Texas wintergrass are prominent herbaceous components in this community. There may also be an increase in prickly pear in this state.
Most of these sites were cultivated for crop production during the settlement of the area. Many of them have been planted to monocultures of introduced forage grasses in recent years. When these sites are cultivated, the soil properties are significantly altered from the reference state. Soil structure, hydrology and biology have been impacted and the site is transitioned to the Converted State.
These sites are prone to invasion by mesquite and honey locust. Without brush management, brush invasion may increase to the point where the site transitions to the Invasive Woody State. At this point it will take significant inputs to remove woody species and restore the grass dominated pasture.
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Major Land Resource Areas
The Ecosystem Dynamics Interpretive Tool is an information system framework developed by the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and New Mexico State University.