Patch establishment of the summer annual saltwort plant (Salsola inermis Forssk.) increases N cycling rates and soil nitrous oxide emissions in Israel’s Negev Desert

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Aims: Spatial heterogeneity of resources and soil biota distribution in drylands is hypothesized to control perennial patterns of vegetation patchiness. The buildup of labile nutrient pools in soils under annual plants may indirectly facilitate succession by other plants, thus aiding the establishment of vegetation patches in deserts. Nutrient accumulation under annual plants can lead to faster nitrogen (N) cycling and increased resource availability. Methods: To understand how the establishment of annual plants affects soil nutrient dynamics, we planted patches of a widespread local summer annual plant, unarmed saltwort (Salsola inermis Forssk.) and assessed how these patches influence the soil N cycle and soil N2O emissions. We hypothesized that annual plant establishment would enhance resource accumulation and accelerate soil N cycle rates in the soil beneath the plant patch. Results: Our results supported our hypothesis; we measured the highest soil N cycle rates and soil N2O emissions under the plant patch, while they decreased across the patch-to-bare-soil gradient, suggesting an accelerated N cycle within the planted areas. Water extractable organic carbon (WEOC) and ammonia accumulation in the surface soil beneath the plants was associated with a large burst in soil N2O emissions within the patch, following dry soil wetting by the first winter rains. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the establishment of annual summer-flourishing plants affects soil nutrient dynamics and accumulation, thus creating nutrient-rich microsites for potential succession by other annuals and perennials, processes that may lead to fertility island establishment in the Negev Desert ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-387
Number of pages15
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume487
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2023

Keywords

  • Annual plants
  • Drylands
  • Fertility islands
  • Immobilization
  • Microbial biomass
  • N cycle
  • NO
  • Net mineralization
  • Nitrification
  • Soil rewetting
  • Vegetative patches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science

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