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Relationship between Soil Nutrient Availability and Plant Species Richness in a Tropical Semi-Arid Environment

Yareni Perroni-Ventura, Carlos Montaña and Felipe García-Oliva
Journal of Vegetation Science
Vol. 17, No. 6 (Dec., 2006), pp. 719-728
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4499176
Page Count: 10
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Relationship between Soil Nutrient Availability and Plant Species Richness in a Tropical Semi-Arid Environment
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Abstract

Question: What is the relationship between soil fertility and plant species richness in the 'fertile islands' occurring beneath two species of legume (Cercidium praecox and Prosopis laevigata)? Location: Tehuacán-Cuicatlán region, central Mexico. Methods: Plant richness was measured in three micro-environments (below canopies of C. praecox, below canopies of P. laevigata and in areas without canopies). The concentration of soil nutrients (C, N and P), C and N in the microbiota, and processes of ecosystem functioning (net C mineralization rate and N mineralization) were measured. The relationship between soil variables and plant richness were assessed with ANCOVAs. Results: Soil nutrients and species richness increases markedly under fertility islands. There were higher concentrations of C and N in the soil, faster rates of C mineralization, and higher species richness under P. laevigata canopies. The relationship between soil fertility and species richness was always positive except for total N, ammonium and net C mineralization rate under C. praecox, and for available P under P. laevigata. Conclusions: The sign of the relationship between soil fertility and species richness varies according to the nutrient and the micro-environment. Positive relationships could result from between species complementarity and facilitation. Negative relationships could be explained by a specific limitation threshold for some soil resources (P and N for plants and C for the soil microbiota) which eliminate the possibilities of between species complementarity and facilitation above that threshold. As in all observational studies, these relationships should be considered only correlational.

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