, Volume 138, Issue 4, pp 613–621

Spatio-temporal patterns of soil available nutrients following experimental disturbance in a pine forest

  • Dali Guo
  • Pu Mou
  • Robert H. Jones
  • Robert J. Mitchell
Community Ecology


Although disturbance is known to alter soil nutrient heterogeneity, it remains unclear whether spatial patterns in soil nutrients after disturbance follow predictable temporal changes that reflect underlying processes. This study examined the effects of tree harvesting and girdling on overall variability, geostatistical patterns, and resource congruence of soil available nutrients in a mature Pinus elliottii Engelm. forest. The two disturbances led to different patterns of vegetation removal, forest floor redistribution, and revegetation, but showed similar post-disturbance changes in overall soil nutrient variability. Soil nutrient variability increased after both disturbances by more than 5-fold, and then decreased, returning to the undisturbed level in 4 years. Spatial structures assessed using geostatistics did not show predictable temporal trends. However, girdled plots showed more persistent spatial structures in soil nutrients than harvested plots, and had semivariogram ranges mostly equal to or less than 10 m, reflecting effects of persistent and spatially stable patches of undisturbed hardwoods that had an average patch size of 10 m. Resource congruence examined with Spearman rank correlations was nil before disturbance, increased after disturbance and then became nil again by the 4th year post-disturbance. The timing of the increase was related to treatment, occurring in the 1st year after disturbance in the girdled plots, but not until the 2nd year in the harvested plots. These two patterns of congruence were potentially caused by different rates of nutrient patch formation and resource uptake by plants during early succession. Although temporal changes in soil heterogeneity have been documented previously, the present study indicates that temporal trends in nutrient variability after disturbance may be predictable, and that the marked changes in spatio-temporal patterns of soil nutrients as a result of disturbance are ephemeral.


Geostatistics Nitrogen and phosphorus Resource congruence Spatio-temporal variation Trees 

Supplementary material

Supplementary electronic material

supp.pdf (32 kb)
(PDF 32 KB)


  1. Armesto J, Pickett STA, McDonell MJ (1991) Spatial heterogeneity during succession: a cyclic model of invasion and exclusion. In: Kolasa J, Pickett STA (eds) Ecological heterogeneity. Ecological studies 86. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 257–269Google Scholar
  2. Beatty SW (1984) Influence of microtopography and canopy species on spatial patterns of forest understory plants. Ecology 65:1406–1419Google Scholar
  3. Bell G, Lechowicz MJ, Appenzeller A, Chandler M, Deblois E, Jackson L, Mackenzie B, Preziosi R, Schallenberg M, Tinker N (1993) The spatial structure of the physical environment. Oecologia 96:114–121Google Scholar
  4. Bliss KM, Jones RH, Mitchell RJ, Mou Pu (2002) Are competitive interactions influenced by spatial nutrient heterogeneity and root foraging behavior? New Phytol 154:409–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cain ML, Subler S, Evans JP, Fortin M-J (1999) Sampling spatial and temporal variation in soil nitrogen availability. Oecologia 118:397–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carlton GC, Bazzaz FA (1998) Resource congruence and forest regeneration following an experimental hurricane blowdown. Ecology 79:1305–1319Google Scholar
  7. Clinton BD, Baker CR (2000) Catastrophic windthrow in the southern Appalachians: characteristics of pits and mounds and initial vegetation responses. For Ecol Manage 126:51–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cui M, Caldwell MM (1997) Shading reduces exploitation of soil nitrate and phosphate by Agropyron desertorum and Artemisia tridentata from soils with patchy and uniform nutrient distributions. Oecologia 109:177–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis JC (1986) Statistics and data analysis in geology. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Ehrenfeld JG, Han X, Parsons WFJ, Zhu W (1997) On the nature of environmental gradients: temporal and spatial variability of soil and vegetation in the New Jersey Pinelands. J Ecol 85:785–798Google Scholar
  11. Einsmann JC, Jones RH, Mou P, Mitchell RJ (1999) Nutrient foraging in ten southeastern coastal plain plant species. J Ecol 87:609–619Google Scholar
  12. Farley RA, Fitter AH (1999) Temporal and spatial variation in soil resources in a deciduous woodland. J Ecol 87:688–696Google Scholar
  13. Fransen B, Kroon HD, Berendse F (2001) Soil nutrient heterogeneity alters competition between two perennial grass species. Ecology 82:2534–2546Google Scholar
  14. Grime JP (1979) Plant strategies and vegetation processes. Wiley, Chichester, UKGoogle Scholar
  15. Gross KL, Pregitzer KS, Burton AJ (1995) Spatial variation in nitrogen availability in three successional plant communities. J Ecol 83:357–367Google Scholar
  16. Guo D, Mou P, Jones RH, Mitchell RJ (2002) Temporal changes in spatial patterns of soil moisture following disturbance: an experimental approach. J Ecol 90:338–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Halvorson JJ, Bolton H Jr, Smith JL, Rossi RE (1994) Geostatistical analysis of resource islands under Artemisia tridentata in the shrub-steppe. Great Basin Nat 54:313–328Google Scholar
  18. Isaaks EH, Srivastava RM (1989) Applied geostatistics. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Jackson RB, Caldwell MM (1993a) The scale of nutrient heterogeneity around individual plants and its quantification with geostatistics. Ecology 74:612–614Google Scholar
  20. Jackson RB, Caldwell MM (1993b) Geostatistical patterns of soil heterogeneity around individual plants. J Ecol 81:683–692Google Scholar
  21. Jones RH, Mitchell RJ, Stevens GN, Pecot SD (2003) Controls of fine root dynamics across a gradient of gap sizes in a pine woodland. Oecologia 134:132–143CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Kleb HR, Wilson SD (1997) Vegetation effects on soil resource heterogeneity in prairie and forest. Am Nat 150:283–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Li H, Reynolds JF (1995) On the quantification of spatial heterogeneity. Oikos 73:280–284Google Scholar
  24. Lister AJ, Mou P, Jones RH, Mitchell RJ (2000) Spatial patterns of soil and vegetation a 40-year-old slash pine ( Pinus elliottii Engelm.) forest in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina, USA. Can J For Res 30:145–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mou P, Fahey TJ, Hughes JW (1993) Nutrient accumulation in vegetation following whole-tree harvest of a northern hardwood ecosystem. J Appl Ecol 30:661–675Google Scholar
  26. Parsons WFJ, Knight DH, Miller SL (1994) Root gap dynamics in lodgepole pine forest: nitrogen transformations in gaps of different size. Ecol Appl 4:354–362Google Scholar
  27. Pickett STA, White PS (1985) The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  28. Pickett STA, Cadenasso ML, Jones CG (2000) Generation of heterogeneity by organisms: creation, maintenance and transformation. In: Hutchings MJ, John EA, Stewart AJA (eds) The ecological consequences of environmental heterogeneity. Blackwell Science, Oxford, pp 33–52Google Scholar
  29. Pritchett WL, Fisher RF (1987) Properties and management of forest soils. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Qian P, Schoenau JJ, Huang WZ (1992) Use of ion exchange membranes in routine soil testing. Commun Soil Sci Plan 23:1791–1804Google Scholar
  31. Robertson GP, Gross KL (1994) Assessing the heterogeneity of belowground resources: quantifying pattern and scale. In: Caldwell MM, Pearcy RW (eds) Exploitation of environmental heterogeneity by plants. Academic Press, Boston, pp 237–252Google Scholar
  32. Robertson GP, Crum MA, Ellis BG (1993) The spatial variability of soil resource following long-term disturbance. Oecologia 96:451–456Google Scholar
  33. Rogers VA (1988) Soil survey of Savannah River Plant area, parts of Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale counties, South Carolina. USDA, Aiken, South Carolina, USAGoogle Scholar
  34. Rossi RE, Mulla DJ, Journel AG, Franz EH (1992) Geostatistical tools for modeling and interpreting ecological spatial dependence. Ecol Monogr 62:277–314Google Scholar
  35. Ryel RJ, Caldwell MM, Manwaring JH (1996) Temporal dynamics of soil spatial heterogeneity in sage-brush-wheatgrass steppe during a growing season. Plant Soil 184:99–309Google Scholar
  36. Schenk HJ, Jackson RB (2002) Rooting depths, lateral root spreads, and belowground /aboveground allometries of plants in water limited ecosystems. J Ecol 90:480–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schroeer AE, Hendrick RL, Harrington TB (1999) Root, ground cover, and litterfall dynamics within canopy gaps in a slash pine ( Pinus elliottii Engelm.) dominated forest. Ecoscience 6:548–555Google Scholar
  38. Silver WL, Vogt KA (1993) Fine root dynamics following single and multiple disturbances in a subtropical wet forest ecosystem. J Ecol 81:729–738Google Scholar
  39. Stark J (1994) Causes of soil nutrient heterogeneity at different scales. In: Caldwell MM, Pearcy RW (eds) Exploitation of environmental heterogeneity by plants. Academic Press, Boston, pp 255–282Google Scholar
  40. Tilman D (1988) Plant strategies and the dynamics and structure of plant communities. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  41. Vinton MA, Burke IC (1995) Interactions between individual plant species and soil nutrient status in shortgrass steppe. Ecology 76:1116–1133Google Scholar
  42. Webster R, Oliver MA (1990) Statistical methods in soil and land resource survey. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  43. Wijesinghe DK, John EA, Beurskens S, Hutchings MJ (2001) Root system size and precision in nutrient foraging: responses to spatial pattern of nutrient supply in six herbaceous species. J Ecol 89:972–983CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wilcznski CJ, Pickett STA (1993) Fine root biomass within experimental canopy gaps: evidence for a below-ground gap. J Veg Sci 4:571–574Google Scholar
  45. Zheng L, Silliman SE (2000) Estimating the theoretical semivariogram from finite numbers of measurements. Water Resour Res 36:361–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dali Guo
    • 1
  • Pu Mou
    • 2
  • Robert H. Jones
    • 3
  • Robert J. Mitchell
    • 1
  1. 1.Jones Ecological Research CenterNewtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology, 235 Eberhart BuildingUniversity of North Carolina-GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations