Salt Desert Scrub

Salt desert scrub habitat

The plant community for this habitat type consists of widely spaced shrubs with dense patches of rhizomatous grasses, as well as low densities of other annual and perennial grasses and succulent forbs. Dominant species are black greasewood and inland saltgrass, but shortspine horsebrush, fourwing saltbush, bud sage, green and gray rabbitbrush, alkali sacaton, alkali cordgrass, and alkali bluegrass are often present. Mat muhly and Sandberg’s bluegrass may be present in mosaics which exhibit more moderate conditions (lower pH.).

This community is preferred for nesting by loggerhead shrikes, which use the thorny shrubs to impale their prey. Similar to the sagebrush lowland community this habitat is important as nesting cover for ground-nesting birds, such as mallards, gadwalls, and short-eared owls when in proximity to water. Nesting birds primarily rely on tall grass and forb components. A variety of landbirds also breed here, including sage thrashers, Brewer’s sparrows, black-throated sparrows, sage sparrows, Brewer’s blackbirds, and western meadowlarks. Many mammalian species use these communities including American badgers, weasels, black-tailed jackrabbits, cottontails, Townsend’s and northern pocket gophers, and deer mouse. They are typical denning sites for coyotes and are also frequented by bobcats. They also get used regularly by mule deer and pronghorn.

Although this habitat type was historically intensively grazed, in more recent years cattle have been excluded from grazing in this habitat type on the Refuge. Prescribed burning is periodically used in these sites to set back succession and composition over the short term, but these communities often do not contain enough continuous fuels to accomplish a complete burn, so the result is a mosaic burning pattern.