, Volume 130, Issue 2, pp 143-153

Soil nutrient dynamics and community boundaries in the Fynbos vegetation of South Africa

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Abstract

The relationship between changes in soil nutrient characteristics and fynbos community boundaries was investigated near Cape Agulhas, South Africa. Soil characteristics relating to total nutrient content (pH, total N and total P, organic carbon, and various cations) were assessed at sites along three transects crossing the boundaries between five plant communities. Dynamics of available N and P in soils of three communities were studied in the field over one year, using ion-exchange resins. There was a wide range in the degree of change in soil nutrient content across different community boundaries. The characteristics that varied most were pH, total N, Ca and total P. Differences in available nutrients among soils indicated that the communities in this landscape were associated with a mosaic of N and P availability. It is proposed that spatial variation in soil nutrient availability rather than total soil nutrient contents may be important in explaining landscape-level species distributions and community composition in nutrient-poor mediterranean-climate ecosystems.