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As an estimate of species-level differences in the capacity to take up different forms of N, we measured plant uptake of 15N-NH4+, 15N-NO3- and 15N, [1]-13C glycine within a set of herbaceous species collected from three alpine community types. Plants grown from cuttings in the greenhouse showed similar growth responses to the three forms of N but varied in the capacity to take up NH4+, NO3- and glycine. Glycine uptake ranged from approximately 42% to greater than 100% of NH4+ uptake; however, four out of nine species showed significantly greater uptake of either NH4+ or NO3- than of glycine. Relative concentrations of exchangeable N at the sites of plant collection did not correspond with patterns of N uptake among...
The exchange of nutrients, nitrogen in particular, between closely associated plants has attracted considerable interest due to its importance in agroecosystems under low external nutrient-input management. The intuitive observation of farmers that grasses benefit from near associations with clovers has not been easy to quantify, mainly because (i) the net effect is measured against large background fluxes, and (ii) excluding one species from one agroecosystem change the system fundamentally. The study of Moyer-Henry et al. (pp. 7–20 in this issue) approaches this problem elegantly by choosing a soil with a relatively low background mineralisation of nitrogen, while maintaining the same species in the system,...
Carbon and nitrogen are supplied by a variety of sources in the desert food web; both vascular and non-vascular plants and cyanobacteria supply carbon, and cyanobacteria and plant-associated rhizosphere bacteria are sources of biological nitrogen fixation. The objective of this study was to compare the relative influence of vascular plants and biological soil crusts on desert soil nematode and protozoan abundance and community composition. In the first experiment, biological soil crusts were removed by physical trampling. Treatments with crust removed had fewer nematodes and a greater relative ratio of bacterivores to microphytophages than treatments with intact crust. However, protozoa composition was similar with...
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Carbon and nitrogen are supplied by a variety of sources in the desert food web; both vascular and non-vascular plants and cyanobacteria supply carbon, and cyanobacteria and plant-associated rhizosphere bacteria are sources of biological nitrogen fixation. The objective of this study was to compare the relative influence of vascular plants and biological soil crusts on desert soil nematode and protozoan abundance and community composition. In the first experiment, biological soil crusts were removed by physical trampling. Treatments with crust removed had fewer nematodes and a greater relative ratio of bacterivores to microphytophages than treatments with intact crust. However, protozoa composition was similar with...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Plant and Soil
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AimThere is interest in determining how cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) modifies N cycling in sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) soils of the western USA.MethodsTo gain insight into the roles of fungi and bacteria in N cycling of cheatgrass-invaded and uninvaded sagebrush soils, the fungal protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide (CHX), and the bacteriocidal compound, bronopol (BRO) were combined with a 15NH4+ isotope pool dilution approach.ResultsCHX reduced gross N mineralization to the same rate in both sagebrush and cheatgrass soils indicating a role for fungi in N mineralization in both soil types. In cheatgrass soils BRO completely inhibited gross N mineralization, whereas, in sagebrush soils a BRO-resistant...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Plant and Soil
Biological soil crusts (BSC) play a major role in water and nutrient fluxes in semi-arid and arid areas, affecting the establishment of vascular plants and contributing to the spatial arrangement of vegetated and open areas. However, little is known regarding their effects on the performance of extant vegetation. By using experimental manipulations (surface soil cutting and herbiciding), we evaluated the effect of the physical structure and the biotic component of smooth biological soil crusts on soil moisture dynamics, and on the nutrient and water status, growth rate, and reproductive effort of Stipa tenacissima tussocks in a semi-arid steppe. Soil moisture content was weakly reduced after cutting the soil surface...
A major uncertainty in predicting long-term ecosystem C balance is whether stimulation of net primary production will be sustained in future atmospheric CO2 scenarios. Immobilization of nutrients (N in particular) in plant biomass and soil organic matter (SOM) provides negative feedbacks to plant growth and may lead to progressive N limitation (PNL) of plant response to CO2 enrichment. Soil microbes mediate N availability to plants by controlling litter decomposition and N transformations as well as dominating biological N fixation. CO2-induced changes in C inputs, plant nutrient demand and water use efficiency often have interactive and contrasting effects on microbes and microbially mediated N processes. One critical...
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Background and aims: We sought to understand the environmental constraints on an arid-zone riparian phreatophtye, saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima and related species and hybrids), growing over a brackish aquifer along the Colorado River in the western U.S. Depth to groundwater, meteorological factors, salinity and soil hydraulic properties were compared at stress and non-stressed sites that differed in salinity of the aquifer, soil properties and water use characteristics, to identify the factors depressing water use at the stress site. Methods: Saltcedar leaf-level transpiration (EL), LAI, and stomatal conductance (GS) were measured over a growing season (June–September) with Granier and stem heat balance sensors...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Plant and Soil
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Forest trees are constantly exposed to various types of natural and anthropogenic stressors. A major long-term goal of our research is to develop a set of early physiological and biochemical markers of stress in trees before the appearance of visual symptoms. Six red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) stands from the northeastern United States were selected for collection of soil and foliage samples. All of the chosen sites had soil solution pH values below 4.0 in the Oa horizon but varied in their geochemistry. Some of these sites were apparently under some form of environmental stress as indicated by a large number of dead and dying red spruce trees. Samples of soil and needles (from apparently healthy red spruce trees)...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Plant and Soil
The availability of nutrients is a critical determinant of ecological dynamics in grasslands, but the relationships between soil resource availability and nutrient limitation across ecosystems are not clear. To better understand how soil nutrient availability determines nutrient limitation in vegetation, we grew the same species of grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) in 98 North American grassland soils and fertilized them factorially with nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). On average adding N, P, and the two nutrients together increased biomass relative to unfertilized plants by 81%, 22%, and 131%, respectively. Plants grown on low-P soils were not primarily limited by P. Instead, these plants were colimited by N and...
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AimsBiological soil crusts (biocrusts) are soil-surface communities in drylands, dominated by cyanobacteria, mosses, and lichens. They provide key ecosystem functions by increasing soil stability and influencing soil hydrologic, nutrient, and carbon cycles. Because of this, methods to reestablish biocrusts in damaged drylands are needed. Here we test the reintroduction of field-collected vs. greenhouse-cultured biocrusts for rehabilitation.MethodsWe collected biocrusts for 1) direct reapplication, and 2) artificial cultivation under varying hydration regimes. We added field-collected and cultivated biocrusts (with and without hardening treatments) to bare field plots and monitored establishment.ResultsBoth field-collected...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Plant and Soil
Plant invasions have the potential to significantly alter soil microbial communities, given their often considerable aboveground effects. We examined how plant invasions altered the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi of native plant roots in a grassland site in California and one in Utah. In the California site, we used experimentally created plant communities composed of exotic (Avena barbata, Bromus hordeaceus) and native (Nassella pulchra, Lupinus bicolor) monocultures and mixtures. In the Utah semi-arid grassland, we took advantage of invasion by Bromus tectorum into long-term plots dominated by either of two native grasses, Hilaria jamesii or Stipa hymenoides. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonizing roots were characterized...
We tested the effects of plant species, fertilization and elevated CO2 on water-stable soil aggregation. Five annual grassland species and a plant community were grown in outdoor mesocosms for 4 years, with and without NPK fertilization, at ambient or elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Aggregate stability (resistance of aggregates to slaking) in the top 0.15 m of soil differed among plant species. However, the more diverse plant community did not enhance aggregate stability relative to most monocultures. Species differences in aggregate stability were positively correlated with soil active bacterial biomass, but did not correlate with root biomass or fungal length. Plant species did not affect aggregate stability...
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Microbiotic crusts are important components of many aridland soils. Research on crusts typically focuses on the increase in soil fertility due to N-fixing micro-organisms, the stabilization of soils against water and wind erosion and the impact of disturbance on N-cycling. The effect of microbiotic crusts on the associated plant community has received little attention. We quantified the influence of crusts on the production, species diversity, nutrient content and water relations of winter annual plant species associated with microbiotic soil crusts in the northeast Mojave Desert. Shoot biomass of winter annuals was 37% greater and plant density was 77% greater on crusts than were biomass and density on soils lacking...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Plant and Soil
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AimsChanging precipitation regimes in semiarid ecosystems will affect the balance of soil carbon (C) input and release, but the net effect on soil C storage is unclear. We asked how changes in the amount and timing of precipitation affect litter decomposition, and soil C stabilization in semiarid ecosystems.MethodsThe study took place at a long-term (18 years) ecohydrology experiment located in Idaho. Precipitation treatments consisted of a doubling of annual precipitation (+200 mm) added either in the cold-dormant season or in the growing season. Experimental plots were planted with big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), or with crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum). We quantified decomposition of sagebrush leaf...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Plant and Soil
In this commentary, we review evidence for major shifts in ecosystem processes across the semiarid western USA and we call for more research that links results of ecological restoration efforts to the growing body of knowledge about interactions between invasive annuals and invaded environments. Published in Plant and Soil, volume 298, issue 1-2, on pages 1 - 5, in 2007.
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Effects of annual additions of mineral N and P (100 kg ha-1) on plant species composition and annual aboveground net primary production (ANPP) were investigated during the first three years following disturbance in a semi-arid ecosystem. Additions of N reduced richness of perennial plant species during years 2 and 3, while P reduced the number of perennial species only in year 3. From year 1 to year 2, annual and biennial species richness declined in all treatments while ANPP of annual species increased greatly. Added N increased ANPP of annual species while it decreased ANPP of most perennial species relative to the unfertilized control treatment. Community similarities were higher for the control and native vegetation...
In water-limited ecosystems, small rainfall events can have dramatic impacts on microbial activity and soil nutrient pools. Plant community phenology and life span also affect soil resources by determining the timing and quantity of plant nutrient uptake, storage, and release. Using the replacement of C3–C4 perennial grasses by the invasive annual grass Bromus tectorum as a case study, we investigated the influence of phenology and life span on pulse responses and sizes of soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) pools. We hypothesized that available and microbial C and N would respond to small rainfall events and that B. tectorum invasion would increase soil C and N pools by reducing inter-annual plant C and N storage...
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In drylands of southeastern Utah, USA, the invasive exotic grass Bromus tectorum L. occurs in distinct spatial patterns suggesting soil control of ecosystem susceptibility to invasion. To improve our understanding of these patterns, we examined performance of B. tectorum in relation to additions of water, KCl, MgO, and CaO at seventeen 1600 m2 sites distributed across a calcareous soil gradient in Canyonlands National Park. Water additions resulted in a 57% increase in B. tectorum establishment. Fall establishment was significantly correlated with silt and clay content in wet plots but not in dry plots, suggesting that texture effects on B. tectorum establishment patterns may be greater in wet years than in dry...
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We used ion-exchange resin bags to investigate effects of water additions, chemical amendments, and plant presence on in situ measures of nutrient bioavailability in conjunction with a study examining soil controls of ecosystem invasion by the exotic annual grass Bromus tectorum L. At five dryland sites in southeastern Utah, USA, resin bags were buried in experimental plots randomly assigned to combinations of two watering treatments (wet and dry), four chemical-amendment treatments (KCl, MgO, CaO, and no amendment), and four plant treatments (B. tectorum alone, the perennial bunchgrass Stipa hymenoides R. & S. alone, B. tectorum and S. hymenoides together, and no plants). Resin bags were initially buried in September...


map background search result map search result map Effects of water additions, chemical amendments, and plants on in situ measures of nutrient bioavailability in calcareous soils of southeastern Utah, USA Plant community dynamics in a semi-arid ecosystem in relation to nutrient addition following a major disturbance Performance of Bromus tectorum L. in relation to soil properties, water additions, and chemical amendments in calcareous soils of southeastern Utah, USA Phreatophytes under stress: transpiration and stomatal conductance of saltcedar (<i>Tamarix</i> spp.) in a high-salinity environment Effects of water additions, chemical amendments, and plants on in situ measures of nutrient bioavailability in calcareous soils of southeastern Utah, USA Performance of Bromus tectorum L. in relation to soil properties, water additions, and chemical amendments in calcareous soils of southeastern Utah, USA Plant community dynamics in a semi-arid ecosystem in relation to nutrient addition following a major disturbance Phreatophytes under stress: transpiration and stomatal conductance of saltcedar (<i>Tamarix</i> spp.) in a high-salinity environment