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Linking plant traits to multiple soil functions in semi-arid ecosystems

Teixeira, Leonardo H., Oliveira, Brunno F., Krah, Franz-Sebastian, Kollmann, Johannes, Ganade, Gislene
Journal of arid environments 2019
aboveground biomass, biomass production, desertification, drought, ecosystems, greenhouse experimentation, indigenous species, land use, saplings, semiarid zones, soil, water quality
Understanding the role plant species play on ecosystems is fundamental for restoration programs, particularly in semi-arid areas because land-use intensification combined with critical droughts has resulted in widespread desertification. Here, we evaluate 15 species of native trees for restoring degraded areas in the Brazilian semi-arid region on the basis of the suitability of their functional traits to ecosystem multifunctionality. To do so, we performed a short-term greenhouse experiment using saplings to estimate the importance of above- and below-ground traits in modulating soil and water quality. Above-ground traits yielded stronger effects on soil and water quality than below-ground traits. Above-ground biomass held the strongest positive effect on ecosystem multifunctionality, being the most beneficial attribute for the soil functions assessed. Thus, plants holding high biomass production should be preferentially selected for restoration in semi-arid regions.