Small-scale spatial heterogeneity in the vertical distribution of soil nutrients has limited effects on the growth and development of Prosopis glandulosa seedlings
We examined the above- and below-ground responses of seedlings of the woody shrub Prosopis glandulosa to the spatial heterogeneity of soil nutrients within the root zone. We performed a microcosm experiment where seedlings were grown with different combinations of nutrients [nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and both combined (NP)] and under different levels of nutrient heterogeneity (nutrients supplied as patches located in the bottom and/or upper portion of rooting zone versus homogeneous distribution). Seedling morphology and biomass did not show a strong response to changes in nutrient ion or spatial heterogeneity. Height, number of leaves, and specific leaf area did not vary significantly between treatments. The number of leaves, foliar biomass, stem biomass and biomass allocation to stems of seedlings showed more responsiveness to the addition of N and NP than to the addition of P. The spatial heterogeneity of nutrients affected the diameter, root biomass and leaf N content. Seedlings had higher diameter and root biomass when the nutrients were homogeneously distributed as compared to their placement as patches in the bottom of the microcosms. Their leaf N concentration increased in those treatments where the nutrient patch was located in the lower half as compared to the upper half of the microcosms. Root foraging responses to nutrient patches varied with their location. Significant root proliferation was observed when patches of N, P and NP were located in the upper portion of the rooting zone; when they were located in the lower portion such a response was observed only for P. Despite our findings that Prosopis seedlings have a low overall responsiveness to small-scale vertical differences in soil nutrient heterogeneity, our results suggest that these differences may modify the growth dynamics of the secondary roots of this ecologically important dryland species during the early stages of its development. © Springer 2005.
Maestre, FT; Reynolds, JF
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