, Volume 191, Issue 1, pp 1-9
Date: 10 Nov 2006

Effect of legume species introduction to early abandoned field on vegetation development

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Abstract

One of the most important areas in ecology is to elucidate the factors that drive succession in ecosystems. The purpose of our study was to assess the effects of legume species (Medicago sativa, Melilotus suaveolens and Astragalus adsurgens) introduction to abandoned arable land on vegetation development in the Loess Plateau, China. Results from our study showed that addition of legume species strongly affected the composition of recently abandoned-field vegetation. Legume species were effective at reducing the number and dominance of natural colonizers (mainly weeds from the seed bank). The introduction of legume species into newly abandoned fields maintained high total cover and above-ground biomass and could improve soil organic carbon and total nitrogen. However, the effects of the treatments were species-specific. Melilotus suaveolens turned out to be severely suppressive to natural colonizers (weed species). Also, Melilotus suaveolens-adding maintained the highest cover and above-ground biomass and was helpful to improve later succession species, e.g. Stipa breviflora and Astragalus polycladus, to invade and establish. Medicago sativa-adding was superior in enhancing the soil organic carbon and total nitrogen. The present results suggested that addition of legume species with greater cover and biomass strongly suppressed the dominance of the weedy species in early succession and the course of old-field succession may be accelerated by introduction of legume species at least temporarily. However, the experimental period was too short to assess to what extent succession may be affected in the longer term.