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Soil C:N:P stoichiometry responds to vegetation change from grassland to woodland
- Zhou, Yong, Boutton, Thomas W., Wu, X. Ben
- Biogeochemistry 2018 v.140 no.3 pp. 341-357
- Prosopis glandulosa, arid lands, carbon, carbon nitrogen ratio, ecosystems, fine roots, grasses, grasslands, land cover, leaves, nitrogen, nitrogen-fixing trees, phosphorus, plasticity, soil heterogeneity, soil profiles, spatial variation, stoichiometry, vegetation cover, woodlands, woody plants
- Woody encroachment has been a major land cover change in dryland ecosystems during the past century. While numerous studies have demonstrated strong effects of woody encroachment on soil carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) storage, far less is known about the plasticity of soil C:N:P stoichiometry in response to woody encroachment. We assessed landscape-scale patterns of spatial heterogeneity in soil C:N:P ratios throughout a 1.2 m soil profile in a region where grassland is being replaced by a diverse assemblage of subtropical woody plants dominated by Prosopis glandulosa, an N₂-fixing tree. Woody species had leaf and fine root C:N:P ratios significantly different from grasses. Variation in soil C:N ratios in both horizontal and vertical planes was remarkably smaller than that of soil N:P and C:P ratios. Spatial patterns of soil C:N ratio throughout the profile were not strongly related to vegetation cover. In contrast, spatial patterns of soil N:P and C:P ratios displayed a strong resemblance to that of vegetation cover throughout the soil profile. Within the uppermost soil layer (0–5 cm), soil N:P and C:P ratios were higher underneath woody patches while lower within the grassland; however, this pattern was reversed in subsurface soils (15–120 cm). These results indicate a complex response of soil C:N:P stoichiometry to vegetation change, which could have important implications for understanding C, N, and P interactions and nutrient limitations in dryland ecosystems.