Soils were examined along three ephemeral rivers in the Namib Desert to assess the influence of their hydrologic characteristics on soil properties. Soils consisted of layers of fluvially deposited, organic-rich silts, interstratified with fluvial and aeolian sands. The most significant influence of the ephemeral hydrologic regime upon soils was related to the downstream alluviation associated with hydrologic decay. This alluviation increased the silt proportion of soils in the lower reaches of the rivers. Organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous were correlated with silt content, and silt deposition patterns influenced patterns of moisture availability and plant rooting, creating and maintaining micro-habitats for various organisms. Localized salinization occurred in association with wetland sites and soluble salt content tended to increase downstream. Because of the covariance between silt and macronutrients, and the influence of silt upon moisture availability and habitat suitability, alluviation patterns associated with the hydrologic regime strongly influence the structure, productivity, and spatial distribution of biotic communities in ephemeral river ecosystems. (C) 2000 Academic Press.
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Hydrologic influences on soil properties along ephemeral rivers in the Namib Desert