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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...
Soil microbial respiration is a critical component of the global carbon cycle, but it is uncertain how properties of microbes affect this process. Previous studies have noted a thermodynamic trade-off between the rate and efficiency of growth in heterotrophic organisms. Growth rate and yield determine the biomass-specific respiration rate of growing microbial populations, but these traits have not previously been used to scale from microbial communities to ecosystems. Here we report seasonal variation in microbial growth kinetics and temperature responses (Q10) in a coniferous forest soil, relate these properties to cultured and uncultured soil microbes, and model the effects of shifting growth kinetics on soil...
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,...
A screening-level assessment of dissolved zinc from inactive and abandoned metal mines in the Cement Creek Basin was performed. The basin is part of the Upper Animas River Basin in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Stream discharge and dissolved zinc concentrations were measured at 49 stations below nonpoint sources including tailings and waste rock, point sources such as adits, and background areas. One measurement was made at a station during three flow events: storm runoff, peak snowmelt runoff, and baseflow. The highest concentrations occurred in the upper part of the basin immediately downstream from nonpoint and point source discharges, especially in the North Fork of Cement Creek. The mean...
Within the past few decades, humans have dramatically altered the earth?s nitrogen (N) cycle. Introduction of reactive nitrogen (N) into the biosphere by humans now exceeds the rate of biological N2-fixation in native terrestrial ecosystems (Galloway et al. 2004). This increased reactive N is due primarily to N fertilizer production and fossil fuel combustion used to support the food and energy demands of a rapidly expanding human population. The negative human and environment health effects of this increased N are many (Galloway et al. 2008; Howarth et al. 2005; UNEP and WHRC 2007). Denitrification is the main process that permanently removes fixed N from the environment. Denitrification, the microbial production...
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...
Gas exchange and water relations responses to warming were compared for two shrub species, Artemisia tridentata spp. vaseyana (Asteraceae), a widely distributed evergreen species of the Great Basin and the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, and Pentaphylloides floribunda (Rosaceae), a deciduous shrub limited in distribution to moist, high-elevation meadows. Plants were exposed to an in situ infrared (IR) climate change manipulation at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, near Crested Butte, CO. Measurements of gas exchange and water relations were made on the two species in July and August, 1993 from plants growing in situ in infrared-heated and control plots. Carbon dioxide uptake, water loss, leaf temperature,...
Bryophytes disperse by small unicellular spores between 7 ?m und usually less than 100 ?m. A large percentage of species is sterile and propagates vegetatively either by special brood bodies or fragments of whole plants. It is shown that there is no difference in the effectiveness between generative and vegetative propagation. Size and weight of the diaspores suggest that both must easily be dispersed and the species must therefore have wide ranges. This does, however, not result in ubiquitous occurrence. This is only true for part of the species. Many, even sterile species show wide transcontinental ranges. On the other hand, there are many examples of limited to very limited distribution in spite of a rich production...
Beavers (Castor canadensis Kuhl) can influence the competitive dynamics of plant species through selective foraging, collection of materials for dam creation, and alteration of hydrologic conditions. In the Grand Canyon National Park, the native Salix gooddingii C.R.Ball (Goodding?s willow) and Salix exigua Nutt. (coyote willow) are a staple food of beavers. Because Salix competes with the invasive Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb., land mangers are concerned that beavers may cause an increase in Tamarix through selective foraging of Salix. A spatial analysis was conducted to assess whether the presence of beavers correlates with the relative abundance of Salix and Tamarix. These methods were designed to detect a system-wide...
An experimental system for sampling trace gas fluxes through seasonal snowpack was deployed at a subalpine site near treeline at Niwot Ridge, Colorado. The sampling manifold was in place throughout the entire snow-covered season for continuous air sampling with minimal disturbance to the snowpack. A series of gases (carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, nitric oxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds) was determined in interstitial air withdrawn at eight heights in and above the snowpack at ~hourly intervals. In this paper, carbon dioxide data from 2007 were used for evaluation of this technique. Ancillary data recorded inlcuded snow physical properties, i.e., temperature, pressure, and density. Various vertical...
To determine the dominant processes controlling nitrogen (N) dynamics in soils and increase insights into soil N cycling from nitrogen isotope (?15N) data, patterns of 15N enrichment in soil profiles were compiled from studies on tropical, temperate, and boreal systems. The maximum 15N enrichment between litter and deeper soil layers varied strongly with mycorrhizal fungal association, averaging 9.6 � 0.4? in ectomycorrhizal systems and 4.6 � 0.5? in arbuscular mycorrhizal systems. The 15N enrichment varied little with mean annual temperature, precipitation, or nitrification rates. One main factor controlling 15N in soil profiles, fractionation against 15N during N transfer by mycorrhizal fungi to host plants, leads...
Book Review: R. W. Adler, Restoring Colorado Ecosystems: A Troubled Sense of Immensity. Robert Adler has written a thoughtful and important meditation on the restoration of the Colorado River ecosystem. From his perch at the University of Utah Law School, Adler?s treatment of the Gordian knot of law facing restoration efforts in the Colorado Basin transforms this book from merely good to truly great. For example, John Wesley Powell, an important figure in this history, may have been unusually prescient in suggesting simple reforms such as reorganizing the Homestead Act to reflect drainage boundaries rather than survey lines. However, the failure to convince legislators of this wisdom is but one instance of a legal...
We report the first published accounts of spawning behavior and spawning site selection of the flannelmouth sucker in two small tributaries of the lower Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Spawning was observed on 20 March 1992 and from 28 March to 10 April 1993 in the Paria River, and from 16 to 19 March 1993 in Bright Angel Creek. Flannelmouth suckers exhibited promiscuous spawning behavior–individual females were typically paired with two or more males for a given event and sometimes changed partners between events. Multiple egg deposits by different females sometimes occurred at one spawning site. Flannelmouth sucker selected substrates from 16 to 32 mm diameter in both streams. Spawning occurred...
Greenhouse experiments were undertaken to identify soil factors that curtail growth of the exotic annual grass Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass) without significantly inhibiting growth of native perennial grasses (here represented by Hilaria jamesii [Torr.] Benth). We grew B. tectorum and H. jamesii alone (monoculture pots) and together (combination pots) in soil treatments that manipulated levels of soil phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Hilaria jamesii showed no decline when its aboveground biomass in any of the applied treatments was compared to the control in either the monoculture or combination pots. Monoculture pots of B. tectorum showed a decline in aboveground biomass with the addition of Na2HPO4 and K2HPO4....
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...
A quantitative understanding of the factors controlling the variation of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in headwater streams is of scientific concern for at least two reasons. First, quantifying the overall carbon budgets of lotic systems is needed for a fundamental understanding of these systems. Second, DOC interacts strongly with other dissolved substances (heavy metals in particular) and plays an important role in the transport of contaminants. In the Snake River near Montezuma, Colorado, measurements of DOC from 1980 to 1986 show rapid decreases in concentration from a peak very early in the snowmelt period. Peak DOC concentrations occur approximately one month prior to peak discharge in the stream. The decline...
Effects of the northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides) on surface soilcharacteristics were examined at the alpinesite of Niwot Ridge, CO. We measured erosionof soil from gopher mounds and compared thecharacteristics of gopher mound (disturbed) andundisturbed soils in two major plant communitytypes. Our measurements of erosion indicatelong-term susceptibility of gopher-disturbedsoils to redistribution by water and/or wind inthis ecosystem. Ecosystem heterogeneityintroduced by the gopher is reflected insignificantly lower SOM in gopher mounds thanin surrounding undisturbed soils, acharacteristic which appears to be causallyassociated with other effects of gopherdisturbance including changes in soil textureand...
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...
Concern about spread of non-native riparian trees in the western USA has led to Congressional proposals to accelerate control efforts. Debate over these proposals is frustrated by limited knowledge of non-native species distribution and abundance. We measured abundance of 44 riparian woody plants at 475 randomly selected stream gaging stations in 17 western states. Our sample indicates that Tamarix ramosissima and Elaeagnus angustifolia are already the third and fourth most frequently occurring woody riparian plants in the region. Although many species of Tamarix have been reported in the region, T. ramosissima (here including T. chinensis and hybrids) is by far the most abundant. The frequency of occurrence of...
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...