TitleDecomposition rate of ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) wood in the desert of southern California and its use in estimating adult survival by life-cycle graph analysis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsEbert, TA, Ebert, TA
JournalPlant Ecology
Keywordscolorado desert fouquieriaceae mortality estimation sonoran desert colorado-desert vegetation population mortality arizona

Dead and downed ocotillos (Fouquieria splendens) are common in the Colorado Desert of southern California and pose a question concerning the life-span of adult plants that have been reported to be long-lived: if ocotillo is long-lived, decay rates must be very slow. Our study focused on decomposition and disintegration of above-ground ocotillo wood over 14 years to obtain a rate of change in dead mass. Disintegration rate was used in a new application of life-cycle graph analysis to calculate persistence time of carcasses, which in turn was used to estimate adult survival rates. We conclude that previous estimates of life spans may be too conservative and half-life of adult shrubs is over 200 years. Our approach to estimating adult survival from decay rates provides an independent test of survival transitions based on live plants for some species and so is an additional tool for developing life cycle models.