Growth and survivorship of Fremont cottonwood, Goodding willow, and salt cedar seedlings after large floods in central Arizona

Juliet Stromberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


During winter 1993, Arizona experienced regional river flooding. Floodwaters at the Hassayampa River eroded floodplains and created a 50-m-wide scour zone available for colonization by pioneer plant species. The slow rate and long duration of the floodwater recession allowed establishment of spring-germinating native trees (mainly Fremont cottonwood [Populus fremontii] and Goodding willow [Salix gooddingii] as well as summer-germinating species including the introduced salt cedar (Tamarix chinensis and related species). Goodding willow and Fremont cottonwood seedlings showed zonation in the floodplain, while salt cedar was equally abundant in zones with saturated and dry surface soils. Floodplain elevation (and soil moisture) influenced shoot growth rate to different degrees among the 3 species. For example, Goodding willow seedlings were significantly taller in areas with saturated soils than dry surface soils; Fremont cottonwoods were taller in the dry surface soil areas; and salt cedar were equally short in both soil moisture zones. Other factors that differentially influenced abundance or growth rates included competition with herbaceous species (Melilotus spp., an introduced plant, locally preempted salt cedar establishment) and herbivory (selective browsing by livestock at 1 river site reduced the natural height advantage of the native tree species). I draw on the results of this descriptive field study to suggest ways in which stream flows and floodplain land use can be managed to restore ecological conditions that favor native tree species over the introduced and widespread salt cedar.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-208
Number of pages11
JournalGreat Basin Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 1997


  • Floods
  • Populus fremontii
  • Riparian habitats
  • Salix gooddingii
  • Tamarix chinensis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Plant Science


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