Winter and summer annuals in the Chihuahuan Desert have been intensively studied in recent years but little is known about the similarities and differences in the dynamics between these two communities. Using 15 yr of census data from permanent quadrats, this paper compared the characteristics and temporal dynamics of these two distinct, spatially co-existent but temporally segregated communities. Although the total number of summer annual species recorded during our 15 yr of observation was higher than winter annuals, the mean number of species observed each year was higher in the winter community. The winter community exhibited lower temporal variation in total plant abundance and populations of individual species, lower species turnover rate and higher evenness than the summer community. The rank abundances of species in winter were significantly positively correlated for a period of up to 7 yr while in summer significant positive correlations in rank abundance disappeared after 2 to 3 yr. The higher seasonal species diversity (i.e. number of species observed in each season) in winter rather than the overall special pool (over 15 yr) may be responsible for the greater community stability of winter annuals. The difference in long-term community dynamics between the two communities of annual plants are likely due to the differences in total species pool, life history traits (e.g. seed size), and seasonal climatic regimes.
Nomenclature: Kearney & Peebles (1960).