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USGS - science for a changing world

William A Reiners

Soil properties under stands of vegetation dominated by mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana) and grass were examined 14 yr after spraying with 2,4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid (2,4-D) to control sagebrush. Changes in only a few soil chemical properties were found after conversion to grassland. Phosphorus and K were apparently redistributed from depth to the surface 5 cm of soil by grass-dominated vegetation. Conversely, surface concentrations of N were lower under grass vegetation than under undisturbed vegetation. No changes attributable to vegetation conversion were found for total C, Na, Mg, cation exchange capacity, base saturation, pH, bulk density, or potential net N mineralization rates...
Laboratory incubations of15N-amended soils from a sagebrush steppe in south-central Wyoming indicate that nutrient turnover and availability have complex patterns across the landscape and between microsites. Total and available N and P and microbial C and N were highest in topographic depressions characterized by tall shrub communities. Net and gross N mineralization rates and respiration were also highest in these areas, but microbial efficiencies expressing growth relative to respiration cost were highest in soils of exposed ridgetop sites (prostrate shrub communities). Similar patterns occurred between shrub and intershrub soils, with greater nutrient availability under shrubs, but lower microbial efficiencies...
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