, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 46–61 | Cite as

Elaeagnus angustifolia Elevates Soil Inorganic Nitrogen Pools in Riparian Ecosystems

  • J. J. Follstad ShahEmail author
  • M. J. Harner
  • T. M. Tibbets


Elaeagnus angustifolia L., a nonnative N2-fixer, has established within riparian corridors of the interior western United States and is now the fourth most frequently occurring woody riparian plant in this region. We examined whether E. angustifolia alters pools and fluxes of soil inorganic N at eight sites dominated by Populus deltoides ssp. wislizeni along the Rio Grande in New Mexico over 2 years. E. angustifolia contributed a small fraction of total leaf fall (<5% across sites) but accounted for a disproportionately high amount of N (19%) that entered the system from P. deltoides and E. angustifolia leaf fall, due to the high N content (>2%) of E. angustifolia senesced leaves. Soil inorganic N concentrations and potential rates of nitrification and net N mineralization varied across sites. E. angustifolia leaf fall explained 59% of the variation in soil inorganic N concentrations across years. This relationship suggests that inputs of N-rich leaf litter from E. angustifolia may increase N availability in riparian soils. We detected no relationship between E. angustifolia leaf fall and fluxes of soil inorganic N, whereas others have measured both stimulation and inhibition of soil N cycling by E. angustifolia. Greater abundance of N2-fixing species in riparian forests may augment growth of neighboring plants or increase N export to rivers. Given these possibilities, ecosystem studies and restoration projects should further examine the potential for E. angustifolia to affect N pools and fluxes along western North American rivers.


Populus deltoides cottonwood Elaeagnus angustifolia Russian olive soil nitrogen nitrification mineralization leaf litter nonnative riparian 



We thank members of the University of New Mexico Hydrogeoecology Group for assistance in the field and laboratory. We thank Drs. Cliff Crawford, Cliff Dahm, and Manuel Molles for establishing study sites as part of companion studies of riparian ecosystem structure and function. Earlier versions of the manuscript were improved by comments provided by Dr. Robert Sinsabaugh and anonymous reviewers. The U.S. National Science Foundation funded research through the IGERT Freshwater Sciences Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program (NSF DGE 9972810), a Conservation and Restoration Biology grant: Flooding Regime and Restoration of Riparian Ecosystem Integrity (NSF DEB-9903973), and the Sevilleta Long Term Ecological Research Program (NSF DEB-0217774). This is Sevilleta LTER publication number 501.

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 91 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. J. Follstad Shah
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • M. J. Harner
    • 1
    • 3
  • T. M. Tibbets
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Nebraska—KearneyKearneyUSA
  4. 4.Department of Zoology and PhysiologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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