Site: Jornada Basin LTER

2004 mesquite dunelands without grasses and 2008 mesquite dunelands with perennial grasses.
Credit: Jornada LTER

The shift from grassland to shrubland is not the only alternative state for desert vegetation. Jornada Basin LTER research has documented: (a) shifts from desertified shrublands back towards native grassland, (b) shifts between different shrubland types, and (c) shifts from grasslands or shrublands to novel ecosystems dominated by non-native annual or perennial grasses. State changes depend on wind and water movement patterns, spatial variation in soil and vegetation type, and triggers such as multiple years of precipitation at levels above or below long-term average.