Gallardo, A. Ecosystems (2003) 6: 564. doi:10.1007/s10021-003-0198-9
Floodplain forests are generally areas of high plant diversity compared with upland forests. Higher environmental heterogeneity, especially variation in belowground properties may help explain this high diversity. However, there is little information available on the spatial scale and pattern of belowground resources in floodplain forests. Geostatistics and coefficient of variation (CV) were used to describe the spatial variability of 20 soil properties ranging from essential plant nutrients, such as NH4 or PO4, to nonessential elements like Ti or V. The spatial variation of Si-to-(Al + Fe) ratio, an index of soil development, was also analyzed. Semivariograms and maps of selected properties were used to discriminate between the effect of flooding (and other mechanisms that may contribute to large scale trends in data) and local heterogeneity. The hypothesis that elements mainly cycled through biological processes (such as N) show different spatial properties than elements cycled through both biological and geological processes (such as P) or elements under strict geological control (such as Ti or V) is also presented. Redox potential was the most variable property (CV = 1.35) followed by mineral N, phosphate, organic matter, and carbon. Nonessential elements for organisms such as Si, Al, Ti, Rh, or V were less variable, supporting the hypothesis that biological control on soil properties leads to higher spatial variability. The range (the average distance within which the samples correlate spatially) varied between 3.89 m for water content to 18.5 m for the Si-to-(Al + Fe) ratio. The proportion of the total variance that can be modeled as spatial dependence (structural variance) was very variable, ranging between 0.34 for Fe and 0.96 for K. The addition of the large trend had a strong influence on the CV of most soil variables and created a gradient in C accumulation and the mineral weathering rate. The results suggest that flooding and other processes that are responsible for large spatial trends in the floodplain forest differentially affect biologically and geologically controlled variables with different turnover rates, thus providing a heterogeneous edaphic environment.