, Volume 288, Issue 1-2, pp 1-18
Date: 21 Aug 2006

Performance of Bromus tectorum L. in relation to soil properties, water additions, and chemical amendments in calcareous soils of southeastern Utah, USA

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Abstract

In drylands of southeastern Utah, USA, the invasive exotic grass Bromus tectorum L. occurs in distinct spatial patterns suggesting soil control of ecosystem susceptibility to invasion. To improve our understanding of these patterns, we examined performance of B. tectorum in relation to additions of water, KCl, MgO, and CaO at seventeen 1600 m2 sites distributed across a calcareous soil gradient in Canyonlands National Park. Water additions resulted in a 57% increase in B. tectorum establishment. Fall establishment was significantly correlated with silt and clay content in wet plots but not in dry plots, suggesting that texture effects on B. tectorum establishment patterns may be greater in wet years than in dry years. Applications of MgO resulted in a 49% decrease in B. tectorum establishment, although MgO had no effect on whole-plot biomass at the end of the growing season. B. tectorum–soil relations were strongest during winter (December–March) when relative growth rates were negatively related to soil acid-neutralizing potential, sand and CaCO3 content, and a measure of bioavailable Mg; and positively related to silt and clay content, total N, measures of bioavailable Mn, P, and K, and a measure of magnetite indicating distributional patterns of eolian dust. As soils were persistently moist during this period, we attribute strong B. tectorum–soil patterns in winter to effects of low temperature on diffusion, microbial activity, and/or production of root exudates important for nutrient mobilization and uptake. In spring, there was a reversal in B. tectorum–soil relations such that loamy soils with higher B. tectorum densities were unfavorable for growth relative to sandy soils with higher warm-season water potentials. We conclude that resource limitations for B. tectorum in this study area shift seasonally, from water limitation of fall establishment, to nutrient limitation of winter growth, and back to water limitation of spring growth. Because study sites generally were arrayed along a hillslope gradient with downslope trends in soil vtexture and nutrient content, close B. tectorum–soil relations documented in this study indicate that a geomorphic framework is useful for understanding and predicting B. tectorum invasion patterns in dryland ecosystems of this region.

Section Editor: T. Kalapos
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