Original Paper

Biological Invasions

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 813-823

Soil recovery after removal of the N2-fixing invasive Acacia longifolia: consequences for ecosystem restoration

  • Elizabete MarchanteAffiliated withCentre for Functional Ecology, Department of Botany, University of CoimbraDepartment of Microbiology, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen Email author 
  • , Annelise KjøllerAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen
  • , Sten StruweAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen
  • , Helena FreitasAffiliated withCentre for Functional Ecology, Department of Botany, University of Coimbra

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Abstract

Invasion by Acacia longifolia alters soil characteristics and processes. The present study was conducted to determine if the changes in soil C and N pools and processes induced by A. longifolia persist after its removal, at the São Jacinto Dunes Nature Reserve (Portugal). Some areas had been invaded for a long time (>20 years) and others more recently (<10 years). For each type of invasion, (i.e., long-invaded and recently invaded), three treatments were used: (1) A. longifolia left intact; (2) A. longifolia was removed; and (3) both A. longifolia and litter layer were removed. Soil samples were collected once a year for four and half years and analysed for chemical and microbial properties. In general, microbial parameters responded faster than C and N pools. In long-invaded areas, two and half years after removal of plants and litter, basal respiration and microbial biomass had already decreased >30%, β-glucosaminidase activity (N mineralization index) >60% and potential nitrification >95%. Removal of plants and litter resulted in a >35% decrease in C and N content after four and half years. In recently invaded areas, β-glucosaminidase activity and potential nitrification showed a marked decrease (>54% and >95%, respectively) after removal of both A. longifolia and litter. Our results suggest that after removal of an N2-fixing invasive tree that changes ecosystem-level processes, it takes several years before soil nutrients and processes return to pre-invasion levels, but this legacy slowly diminish, suggesting that the susceptibility of native areas to (re)invasion is a function of the time elapsed since removal. Removal of the N-rich litter layer facilitates ecosystem recovery.

Keywords

Ecosystem processes Microbial activity and biomass C and N-cycling Potential nitrification Soil ecology β-glucosaminidase activity