, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 25-36

Secondary successional patterns in a sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) community as they relate to soil disturbance and soil biological activity

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The relationship between secondary succession, soil disturbance, and soil biological activity were studied on a sagebrush community (Artemisia tridentata) in the Piceance Basin of northwestern Colorado, U.S.A. Four levels of disturbance were imposed. I: the vegetation was mechanically removed and as much topsoil as possible was left; 2: the vegetation was mechanically removed and the topsoil scarified to a depth of 30 cm; 3: topsoil and subsoil were removed to a depth of 1 m, mixed and replaced; 4: topsoil and subsoil were removed to a depth of 2 m and replaced in a reverse order. Plant species composition, dehydrogenase and phosphatase enzymatic activity, mycorrhizae infection potentials, and percent organic matter were the variables measured.

Treatment 4 drastically altered the pattern of vegetation succession. Treatments 2, 3, and 4 started with Salsola iberica as the dominant species but six years later, 3 and to lesser extent 2 changed in the direction of the species composition of 1, dominated by perennial grasses and perennial forbs. Treatment 4 developed a shrub dominated community. The rate of succession was not decreased by the increased levels of disturbance. Both dehydrogenase enzyme activity and mycorrhizae infection potential (MIP) increased with the change from Salsola iberica to a vegetation dominated by either perennial grasses and forbs or shrubs. The intensity of disturbance in 2, 3, and 4 reduced drastically dehydrogenase activity and MIP, but in six years they recovered to levels comparable to 1. Phosphatase enzyme activity and organic matter were unrelated to species composition but related to treatment and time elapsed. In both cases a significant decrease was observed throughout the six-year period.

Nomenclature follows
This study was funded by the United States Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AS02-76EV04018.