Soil carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus storage in juniper–oak savanna: role of vegetation and geology

Hsiao, Che-Jen; Leite, Pedro A. M.; Hyodo, Ayumi; Boutton, Thomas W.

Woody-plant encroachment into grasslands and savannas has been globally widespread during the past century, likely driven by interactions between grazing, fire suppression, rising atmospheric inline-formulaCO2, and climate change. In the southernmost US Great Plains, Ashe juniper and live oak have increased in abundance. To evaluate potential interactions between this vegetation change and the underlying soil parent material on ecosystem biogeochemistry, we quantified soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP), and inline-formulaδ13C of SOC in soils obtained from trenches passing through grassland, juniper, and oak patches on soils lying atop the respective Edwards and Buda limestone formations in central Texas. Soils on the Edwards formation are more shallow and have more rock outcropping than those on Buda. The inline-formulaδ13C values of SOC under grasslands was inline-formula−19 ‰, whereas those under woody patches were inline-formula−21 ‰ to inline-formula−24 ‰, indicating that wooded areas were relatively recent components of the landscape. Compared with grasslands, areas now dominated by juniper or oak had elevated SOC, TN, and TP storage in soils lying atop Edwards limestone. In Buda soils, only oak patches had increased SOC, TN, and TP storage compared with grasslands. Woody encroachment effects on soil nutrients were higher in soils on the Edwards formation, perhaps because root and litter inputs were more concentrated in the relatively shallow layer of soil atop the Edwards bedrock. Our findings suggest that geological factors should be considered when predicting nutrient store responses in savannas following vegetation change. Given that woody encroachment is occurring globally, our results have important implications for the management and conservation of these ecosystems. The potential interactive effects between vegetation change and soil parent material on C, N, and P storage warrant attention in future studies aimed at understanding and modeling the global consequences of woody encroachment.

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Hsiao, Che-Jen / Leite, Pedro A. M. / Hyodo, Ayumi / et al: Soil carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus storage in juniper–oak savanna: role of vegetation and geology. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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