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Effects of soil erosion and seabird activities on chemical properties of surface soils on an oceanic island in Ogasawara Islands, Japan

Hiradate, Syuntaro, Morita, Sayaka, Hata, Kenji, Osawa, Takeshi, Sugai, Kyoko, Kachi, Naoki
Catena 2015 v.133 pp. 495-502
acidity, altitude, ecosystems, feral animals, goats, grasslands, introduced species, islands, nitrogen content, phosphates, phytomass, plant growth, seabirds, soil erosion, soil pH, soil profiles, Japan
To conserve indigenous natural ecosystem and help in the recovery of natural vegetation on Nakoudojima Island, which is a subtropical oceanic island in Ogasawara Islands in Japan, we clarified the mechanisms of the changes in soil chemical properties as affected by soil erosion and seabird activities on the island. Under grassland vegetation where influence of feral goat (exotic species) had been severe, the chemical properties of surface soils with a thickness of 5cm were variable even in a small area of 0.375km2; pH(H2O) value range between 4.6 and 6.9, total C content range between 0.36 and 5.62%, total N content range between 0.03 and 0.45%, exchangeable acidity range between 0.5 and 50mmolckg−1, and plant-available phosphate (Bray II P) range between 0.4 and 170mgP2O5100g−1. By clarifying soil profile characteristics under natural and disturbed vegetation and distribution patterns of these soils on the island, the changes in the soil chemical properties were reasonably assigned to the effect of soil erosion caused by feral goats for increased soil exchangeable acidity and decreased soil pH (mainly found in inland area) and to the effect of seabird activities for increased Bray II P and soil exchangeable acidity and decreased soil pH (mainly found in outer rim area with high altitude). It was also clarified that the high soil exchangeable acidity was significantly related to the low productivity of plant biomass for these plots (P<0.01). Soil erosion would have removed surface soils having weak acidity and exposed subsoils having strong acidity to the ground surface, resulting in inhibition of plant growth and delay of vegetation recovery. Based on the findings obtained in the present study, several options were proposed to stop soil erosion and to recover the vegetation, although careful preliminary examination would be necessary for applying them.