Litter as a regulator of N and C dynamics in macrophytic patches in Negev desert soils

Eli Zaady, Peter M. Groffman, Moshe Shachak

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    119 Scopus citations


    In desert ecosystems, nutrient cycling activity is concentrated in brief periods of intense biological activity following wetting events. Release and uptake of N from litter and microbial biomass may be important regulators of N availability to plants and N loss to denitrification and NH3 volatilization. Litter and microbial biomass dynamics may also be important to the maintenance of shrub-dominated patches of high fertility in desert ecosystems. We have measured soil C and N cycling processes (respiration, NH4+ and NO3- dynamics, denitrification and microbial biomass C and N dynamics) in rewetted Negev desert soil treated with different size classes of desert plant litter in 30-day laboratory incubations. The results suggest that litter plays a strong role in conserving N following wetting events in Negev soils. Amounts of soil NH4+ and NO3- and microbial biomass N were reduced in litter-amended treatments, suggesting that significant quantities of N were sequestered in litter, especially the largest size classes of litter. Denitrification was a significant sink for N, and was stimulated by the presence of litter, but was less important than immobilization of N in litter. Immobilization and release of N by litter may be especially important in the N cycle in desert ecosystems, moderating seasonal patterns of N availability and regulating patch interactions that facilitate the development of "islands of fertility" in these ecosystems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)39-46
    Number of pages8
    JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 1996

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Microbiology
    • Soil Science


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