This is the reference state for the Tight Sandy Loam ecological site. It represents the historic range of variability in the plant communities with the periodic disturbance of fire and grazing. It is a mosaic of herbaceous plants oak species and woody understory vines and shrubs.
The dominant trees are post oak and black jack oak with a mixture of tall and midgrasses, forbs and shrubs in the understory and canopy interspaces. Dominant herbaceous plants include little bluestem, sideoats grama, silver bluestem, and Texas wintergrass. Other grasses include big bluestem, Indiangrass, wildryes, dropseeds, sedges, and Scribner's panicum. Forbs include sagewort, sunflowers, tickclover, lespedezas, wildbeans, yellow neptune, Other woody plants include bumelia, elms, greenbriar, plums, grapes, hawthorn, American beautyberry, coralberry, and Carolina snailseed. These woody species will increase in ground cover in the absence of fire.
Woody canopy in the reference state is complex with some areas having dense oak canopy mixed with multiple prairie openings. For planning and management purposes, the average woody canopy in reference condition can be described as less than 40 percent.
The Tight Sandy Loam site is estimated to produce between 2,000 to 4,500 pounds of vegetative production per year in reference condition.
Tallgrasses = Midgrasses Trees Forbs Shrubs
This state represents the shift to a woody dominated plant community with woody canopy exceeding 60 percent. Trees and shrubs dominate the ecological processes on the site and the herbaceous grasses and forbs are limited to shade-tolerant species. There is an abundance of leaf litter build up which further limits herbaceous plant germination and production.
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. KR 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 represents the shift to an invasive woody dominated plant community with woody canopy exceeding 60 percent. Trees and shrubs such as mesquite, juniper and honey locust dominate the ecological processes on the site and the herbaceous grasses and forbs are limited to shade-tolerant species. There is often an increase in prickly pear and tasajillo.
Without periodic fire or brush management the reference state will transition to the Closed Canopy Woodland State. Woody species will continue to increase and lead to mesophication of the plant community with increased woody canopy and increase in shade-tolerant species.
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.
At this point it will take significant inputs to remove woody species and restore the Savannah State. This will require some selective thinning of woody species and the re-introduction of fire to the ecosystem. This process may take 5 years or more depending on woody canopy and past management. Grazing management including some deferment will be required to help reestablish the herbaceous plant community.
Without brush management the Converted State may transition to the Invasive Woody State. Mesquite, honey locust, Juniper and elms are the primary invaders on these sites. Woody species will continue to increase and lead to mesophication of the plant community with increased woody canopy and an increase in shade-tolerant species.
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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.