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Effects of Plants on Soil-Forming Processes: Case Studies from Arid Environments

Chapter

Abstract

Bulk deposits of aeolian sand accumulated over recent timescales provide instructive systems for examining effects of colonising vegetation on soil development. The two contrasting case studies presented here are eucalypt woodland in a dune system in southwest Australia and the rubified sand seas of the United Arab Emirates. In the former, clay pavements forming under the lateral root catchments of the eucalypts are shown to be constructed from iron, aluminium and other mineral elements abstracted from ground waters by deep roots. The pavements concerned have a marked restrictive influence on understorey density and biodiversity while also having an overall role in maximising effectiveness of usage of water and nutrients by the trees in question. Timescales and amounts of iron uplifted in this manner are estimated for the system. In the Arabian example, the occurrence of intense reddening (rubification) of sand towards the mountains of Oman is well known, and abiotic processes have been implicated in the phenomenon. In this chapter, we invoke involvement of a biotic component, having demonstrated a relationship between vegetation density and extent of rubification as seen in a positive correlation between increased reddening and cumulative vegetation encountered as one moves from coast to mountains. We hypothesise that uplift of iron by deep-rooted shrubs/trees might be the agent responsible for progressive reddening. Definitive testing of this hypothesis is required, particularly by analysing for iron in xylem sap flowing up through taproots and looking for evidence of its subsequent release into superficial layers of sand surrounding lateral roots of the trees.

Keywords

Desert Hydraulic lift Iron Rubification Sand Trees 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge assistance provided by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Dubai-based the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA). Iron oxide data was kindly provided by Kevin White of University of Reading. Andrew Buchanan and Phil Goulding helped prepare Figs. 17.1 , 17.2 and 17.4 . The Australian component of this work was carried out with the support of the South Coast Natural Resource Management Incorporated. The drawing in Fig. 17.3a was kindly provided by Noel Schoknecht.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agriculture and FoodNarroginAustralia
  2. 2.School of Plant BiologyThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  3. 3.Soil and Land Use ManagementEnvironment Agency-Abu DhabiAbu DhabiUAE
  4. 4.Soils and Water Sciences Department, Faculty of AgricultureFayoum UniversityFayoumEgypt
  5. 5.International Center for Biosaline AgricultureDubaiUAE

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