Original Papers

Oecologia

, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 451-456

First online:

The spatial variability of soil resources following long-term disturbance

  • G. Philip RobertsonAffiliated withW.K. Kellogg Biological Station and Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Michigan State University
  • , James R. CrumAffiliated withDepartment of Crop and Soil Sciences, Michigan State University
  • , Boyd G. EllisAffiliated withDepartment of Crop and Soil Sciences, Michigan State University

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Abstract

The spatial distributions of selected soil properties in two adjacent sites in southwest Michigan were examined to evaluate the potential effects of chronic disturbance on resource heterogeneity. One site was a cultivated field that had been cleared, plowed, and cropped annually for decades prior to sampling while the other, uncultivated field was cleared of original forest in 1960 after which it was mown annually but never plowed or cropped. We took replicate samples from a 330-point unaligned grid across the sites for soil pH, gravimetric moisture, inorganic phosphorus, total carbon, and net nitrification and nitrogen mineralization potentials. Soils in the cultivated site contained less than half as much carbon as in the uncultivated site, but had higher levels of inorganic phosphorus and moisture, and higher soil pH. Potential net nitrogen mineralization and nitrification rates did not differ between sites. Geostatistical analysis showed that almost all properties examined were strongly autocorelated within each site; structural variance as a proportion of sample variance ranged from 30–95% for all properties, and for any given property differed little between sites. The distance over which this dependence was expressed, however, was for all properties but pH substantially less in the uncultivated site (7–26 m) as compared to the tilled site (48–108m), especially for total C and net nitrification and N mineralization. These results suggest that the spatial pattern and scale of soil variability can differ markedly among edaphically identical sites and that these differences can be related to disturbance history.

Key words

Soil nutrients Spatial variability Geostatistics Disturbance Nitrogen cycling