Soil patchiness in juniper-sagebrush-grass communities of central Oregon
- Cite this article as:
- Roberts, C. & Allen Jones, J. Plant and Soil (2000) 223: 47. doi:10.1023/A:1004745329332
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This study compared the sizes, spacings and properties (soil moisture, pH, nitrogen, soil arthropods and VAM) of soil resource islands and bare patches in sagebrush-grass communities invaded by western juniper versus those without juniper. We analyzed 1000 surface soil samples taken from nine 50-m radius circular plots sampled in December of 1991 and May of 1992 on ‘The Island’, one of the few undisturbed areas of sagebrush-grass shrubland in Oregon. Spatial structure was interpreted from correlograms (Moran's I) and standardized semivariograms. The presence of juniper was associated with increased bare area and smaller, more widely spaced grass and sagebrush plants. Soil arthropod numbers and biomass in plots with juniper were only roughly one-fifth of those in sagebrush-grass plots in December. The dominant soil pattern in both sagebrush-grass and juniper-sagebrush-grass plots was regularly-distributed patches spanning a range of sizes and spacings. Plots with juniper had greater patchiness at shorter lags (<3 m), and patchiness was more developed for soil moisture, net nitrification, and net N mineralization, whereas sagebrush-grass plots had greater patchiness at longer lags (3 – 9 m) and patchiness was more developed for NO3–N, arthropod numbers and biomass. These differences in soil patterns with and without juniper indicate that juniper responds to, or causes, changes in the size of resource islands under sage and grass when it invades sage-grass communities.