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A unique saline ecological system formed by an extensive mosaic of small clay pans and low stable dunes exists within Edwards Air Force Base in the western Mojave Desert of California. This ecosystem lies between the large Rosamond and Rogers dry lakes on the old Pleistocene lakebed of Lake Thompson. Plant communities on the low and relatively stable dunes were broadly classed as saltbush scrub, with a total canopy cover of 30–36%. Atriplex confertifolia was the typical dominant, with Ericameria nauseosa as an important associate. Taller dunes of younger age and less saline soils had similar plant cover, but a distinct plant community with Atriplex canescens and Krascheninnikovia lanata as dominants and Yucca brevifolia as a common associate. Flat areas adjacent to the dunes were dominated by a virtual monoculture of Atriplex confertifolia. Aboveground shrub and bunchgrass biomass including dead material varied from 503 to 1204 kg ha−1, low in comparison to similar plant communities in the Great Basin. The absence of small saplings and seedlings of many shrub species suggests successful establishment is highly episodic. Seedlings were abundant only in Isocoma acradenia.

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© 2017 M. Rasoul Sharifi

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