Plant and Soil

, Volume 289, Issue 1–2, pp 289–300 | Cite as

Ammonium fixation in selected California decomposed granites

  • Daniel RiderEmail author
  • Donald McGahan
  • Vic Claassen
Original Paper


Revegetation on disturbed, low organic matter content, decomposed granite (DG) substrates are limited by low plant-available moisture and nitrogen. Data from a single DG site in northern California, USA, showed that a significant fraction of the ammonium from fertilizers or organic matter mineralization was fixed into silicate interlayer positions. To evaluate the broader relevance of NH 4 + fixation, the NH 4 + fixation capacities of 11 other drastically disturbed DG substrates throughout California were evaluated. The fixation capacities of the substrates were quite varied and increased as added NH 4 + application levels increased (124–1,670 kg NH 4 +  ha−1). When amended with 124 kg NH 4 +  ha−1, 7 of the 11 substrates fixed between 14 and 78% of the added NH 4 + . Analysis of particle size fractions of a typical material indicated that the very fine sand fraction had the highest fixation capacity and the clays and very coarse sands had the lowest, on a gravimetric basis. The overall fixation capacities showed no significant relation to potential predictive characteristics, including extractable K+, NH 4 + , or total N levels. Three methods of cation exchange capacity (CEC) measurement were tested for their ability to predict NH 4 + fixation. The Ba method which utilizes an indicator cation that is not subject to interlayer fixation was not a reliable indicator of NH 4 + fixation. The NH 4 + method had the strongest relation to NH 4 + fixation in the DG materials. The difference between the measured CEC of the NH 4 + method and the Ba method was found to be most predictive of NH 4 + fixation.


Ammonium fixation Decomposed granite Nitrogen availability Cation exchange complex 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Robert Zasoski for his insightful discussions and continued interest in this work. We would also like to thank Rachael Weight for laboratory assistance. Funding was provided by California Department of Transportation’s Soil Resource Evaluation Project (contract #43A0073), administered by Jack Broadbent, Caltrans Landscape Architect.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Land, Air, and Water ResourcesUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA

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