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Ecological Survey of Central Arizona

Ecological Survey of Central Arizona

Survey200_050410_0313The Ecological Survey of Central Arizona (ESCA) is an extensive field survey and integrated inventory designed to capture key ecological indicators of the CAP LTER study area consisting of the urbanized, suburbanized, and agricultural areas of metropolitan Phoenix, and the surrounding Sonoran desert. The survey is conducted every five years at approximately 200 sample plots (30m x 30m) that were located randomly using a tessellation-stratified dual-density sampling design. As a result of the design, study plots fall in just about every imaginable habitat throughout the CAP LTER study area, ranging from native Sonoran desert sites to residential yards to the airport tarmac. Measurements include an inventory of all plants (identified to the lowest possible taxonomic unit, typically species), plant-size measurements, soil coring for physicochemical properties, insect sweep-net sampling, photo documentation, and a visual survey of site characteristics.

In 2010, the survey was expanded to include an inventory of residential parcels overlapping the survey plot at sites in residential areas. The objectives of the survey are to (1) characterize patches in terms of key biotic, physical, and chemical variables, and (2) examine relationships among land use, general plant diversity, native plant diversity, plant biovolume, soil nutrient status, and social-economic indices along an indirect urban gradient. In light of the extensive spatial coverage of ESCA, the sampling locations of many of the CAP LTER’s other long-term monitoring programs (e.g., ground-dwelling arthropods, bird censuses) were repositioned to coincide with ESCA study plots around the time of the first ESCA (survey 200) to leverage data from multiple monitoring efforts. The 4th and most recent survey was conducted in 2015, contributing to a rich dataset in terms of both temporal and spatial coverage.



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Rainey, F., K. Ray, M. Ferreira, B. Z. Gatz, N. F. Nobre, D. Bagaley, B. A. Rash, M. J. Park, A. M. Earl, N. C. Shank, A. Small, M. C. Henk, J. R. Battista, P. Kaempfer and M. S. Da Costa. 2005. Extensive diversity if ionizing-radiation-resistant bacteria recovered from Sonoran Desert soil and description of nine new species of the genus Delnococcus obtained from a single soil sample. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 71(9):5225-5235. DOI: 10.1128/?AEM.71.9.5225-5235.2005. (link )

Hope, D., C. Gries, W. Zhu, W. F. Fagan, C. L. Redman, N. B. Grimm, A. L. Nelson, C. A. Martin and A. P. Kinzig. 2003. Socioeconomics drive urban plant diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 100(15):8788-8792. (link )

Cousins, J. R., D. Hope, C. Gries and J. C. Stutz. 2003. Preliminary assessment of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal diversity and community structure in an urban ecosystem. Mycorrhiza 13:319-326. (link )