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Soils mediate the impact of fine woody debris on invasive and native grasses as whole trees are mechanically shredded into firebreaks in piñon-juniper woodlands

Journal of Arid Environments

By:
, , , , , and
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2016.11.002

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Abstract

To stem wildfires, trees are being mechanically shredded into firebreaks with the resulting fine woody debris (FWD) potentially exerting immense control over soil and plants. We linked FWD-induced changes in microbial activity and nutrient availability to the frequency of Bromus tectorum and three native, perennial grasses across 31 piñon-juniper woodlands, UT, USA. Using a series of mixed models, we found that FWD increased the frequency of three of the four grasses by at least 12%. Deep, as opposed to shallow, soils mediated frequencies following FWD additions but only partially explained the variation in Bromus and Pseudoroegneria spicata. Although fertile areas associated with tree-islands elicited no response, FWD-induced increases in nitrogen mineralization in deep soils (15–17 cm) caused the frequency of the exotic and Pseudoroegneria to rise. Higher phosphorus availability in FWD-covered surface soils (0–2 cm) had no impact on grasses. FWD altered deep soil respiration, and deep and shallow microbial biomass structuring Pseudoroegneria frequencies, suggesting that microorganism themselves regulated Pseudoroegneria. The positive effects of FWD on grass frequencies intensified over time for natives but diminished for Bromus. Our results demonstrate that microorganisms in deeper soils helped mediate species-specific responses to disturbance both facilitating exotic invasion and promoting native establishment.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Soils mediate the impact of fine woody debris on invasive and native grasses as whole trees are mechanically shredded into firebreaks in piñon-juniper woodlands
Series title:
Journal of Arid Environments
DOI:
10.1016/j.jaridenv.2016.11.002
Volume:
137
Year Published:
2017
Language:
English
Publisher:
Elsevier
Contributing office(s):
Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description:
9 p.
First page:
60
Last page:
68