Research Summary: Aspen Increase Soil Moisture, Nutrients, Organic Matter and Respiration in Rocky Mountain Forest Communities

ABSTRACT

Development and change in forest communities are strongly influenced by plant-soil interactions. The primary objective of this paper was to identify how forest soil characteristics vary along gradients of forest community composition in aspen-conifer forests to better understand the relationship between forest vegetation characteristics and soil processes. The study was conducted on the Fishlake National Forest, Utah, USA. Soil measurements were collected in adjacent forest stands that were characterized as aspen dominated, mixed, conifer dominated or open meadow, which includes the range of vegetation conditions that exist in seral aspen forests. Soil chemistry, moisture content, respiration, and temperature were measured. There was a consistent trend in which aspen stands demonstrated higher mean soil nutrient concentrations than mixed and conifer dominated stands and meadows. Specifically, total N, NO3 and NH4 were nearly two-fold higher in soil underneath aspen dominated stands. Soil moisture was significantly higher in aspen stands and meadows in early summer but converged to similar levels as those found in mixed and conifer dominated stands in late summer. Soil respiration was significantly higher in aspen stands than conifer stands or meadows throughout the summer. These results suggest that changes in disturbance regimes or climate scenarios that favor conifer expansion or loss of aspen will decrease soil resource availability, which is likely to have important feedbacks on plant community development.

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Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 17-December-2012

Author(s): Buck J., St. Clair S.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0052369

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