S. K. Morgan Ernest, Thomas J. Valone, and James H. Brown. 2009. Long-term monitoring and experimental manipulation of a Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem near Portal, Arizona, USA. Ecology 90:1708.

Data Paper

Ecological Archives E090-118-D1.


Data Files


S. K. Morgan Ernest
Department of Biology
Utah State University
Logan, UT 84322
E-mail: [email protected]

Thomas J. Valone
Department of Biology
Saint Louis University
Saint Louis, MO 63103

James H. Brown
Department of Biology
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Data Files

Each data set has its own file and its own metadata documenting the data collection details and data set structure.

Rodents: Data file (see log of corrections)-- Portal_rodents_19772002.csv
  Metadata -- Portal_rodent_metadata.htm
Plants: Data files -- Portal_plant_summer_annual_19831988.csv
  Metadata -- Portal_plant_metadata.htm
Ants: Data files -- Portal_ant_colony_19771987.csv
  Metadata -- Portal_ant_metadata.htm
Precipitation: Data files -- Portal_precipitation_19801989.csv
  Metadata -- Portal_precipitation_metadata.htm


Desert ecosystems have long served as model systems in the study of ecological concepts (e.g., competition, resource pulses, top-down/bottom-up dynamics). However, the inherent variability of resource availability in deserts, and hence consumer dynamics, can also make them challenging ecosystems to understand. Study of a Chihuahuan desert ecosystem near Portal, Arizona, began in 1977. At this site, 24 experimental plots were established in 1977 and divided among controls and experimental manipulations. Experimental manipulations over the years include removal of all or some rodent species, all or some ants, seed additions, and various alterations of the annual plant community. While some of these manipulations were discontinued early on, others (i.e., ant and rodent manipulations) have been maintained throughout the study. Monitoring of the composition and abundances of ants, plants, and rodents has occurred continuously on all 24 plots. From 1977–2002, individual-level data on rodents (i.e., species, sex, size, reproductive condition) was collected monthly for each plot. From 1983–2002, the species-level abundances of plants were sampled on permanent quadrats. From 1977–2002, the species-level abundance of ant colonies was recorded for each plot and from 1988–2002 additional information on ant abundances were recorded. Finally, from 1980–2002 we recorded precipitation at the study site.

These data have been used in a variety of publications documenting the effects of the experimental manipulations as well as the response of populations and communities to long-term changes in climate and habitat. Sampling is ongoing and this database will be periodically updated.

Key words: ants; Chihuahuan Desert; LTREB data; plants; rodents.

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