, Volume 134, Issue 4, pp 547–553 | Cite as

Responses of soil nitrogen dynamics in a Mojave Desert ecosystem to manipulations in soil carbon and nitrogen availability

  • S. M. SchaefferEmail author
  • S. A. Billings
  • R. D. Evans
Ecosystems Ecology


We investigated the effects of changes in soil C and N availability on N mineralization, nitrification, denitrification, NH3 volatilization, and soil respiration in the Mojave Desert. Results indicate a C limitation to microbial N cycling. Soils from underneath the canopies of Larrea tridentata (DC.) Cov., Pleuraphis rigida Thurber, and Lycium spp. exhibited higher rates of CO2 flux, lower rates of NH3 volatilization, and a decrease in inorganic N (NH4 +-N and NO3 --N) with C addition. In addition to C limitation, soils from plant interspaces also exhibited a N limitation. Soils from all locations had net immobilization of N over the course of a 15-day laboratory incubation. However, soils from interspaces had lower rates of net nitrification and potential denitrification compared to soils from under plant canopies. The response to changes in C availability appears to be a short-term increase in microbial immobilization of inorganic N. Under controlled conditions, and over a longer time period, the effects of C and N availability appear to give way to larger differences due to spatial location. These findings have implications for ecosystems undergoing changes in soil C and N availability due to such processes as desertification, exotic species invasions, or elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration.


Ammonia volatilization Denitrification Microbial activity Mineralization Soil respiration 



We thank Lynda Sperry and Nicole Hardiman for assistance in the laboratory and field. Special thanks to Susan Ziegler for comments made during the preparation of this manuscript. Thanks to Dene Charlet, Dean Jordan, Stephen Zitzer, Stan Smith, everyone at the Nevada Desert FACE Facility, DOE-NTS, and Bechtel Nevada for technical support and access to the field site. This research was funded by NSF Ecosystem Studies Program grant 98-14358. Sean Schaeffer was supported by a NSF-EPSCoR molecular and cellular biology fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. M. Schaeffer
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. A. Billings
    • 1
  • R. D. Evans
    • 1
  1. 1.601 Science and Engineering Building, University of Arkansas Stable Isotope LaboratoryUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

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