Fragmentation modulates the strong impact of habitat quality and plant cover on fertility and microbial activity of semiarid gypsum soils
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- Lázaro-Nogal, A., Matesanz, S., Gimeno, T.E. et al. Plant Soil (2012) 358: 213. doi:10.1007/s11104-012-1184-9
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Background and aims
Plant-soil interactions are a crucial component of ecosystem functioning. However, most global change studies focus on plant communities, with information on soil properties and performance being scarce. Our goal was to assess the individual and joint effect of habitat heterogeneity and three global change drivers (fragmentation, loss of habitat quality and climate change) on nutrient availability and soil microbial activity in Mediterranean gypsum soils.
We collected soil samples from an experimental field site from large/small fragments, with high/low habitat quality, subjected to two levels of water availability (dry/mesic) and from two microhabitats (under the canopy of shrubs and in the open). We analyzed nutrient concentrations (C, N and P) and enzymatic activities (ß-glucosidase, urease and acid phosphatase).
C, N, P content, ß-glucosidase, urease and acid phosphatase activities were higher under the canopy than in the open and in high- than in poor- habitat quality sites. These differences were exacerbated in small fragments.
The strong interdependence between plant and soil was modulated by fragmentation in the Mediterranean gypsum soils studied. Drought did not exert a direct negative effect on soil properties, although the effect might arise under more intense drought or under drought taking place at times of the year different from those explored here. Results highlight the importance of considering several drivers simultaneously to forecast realistic ecosystem responses to global change.