• Nutrient Availability in Rangeland Soils: Influence of Prescribed Burning, Herbaceous Vegetation Removal, Overseeding with Bromus tectorum, Season, and Elevation

      Blank, R. R.; Chambers, J.; Roundy, B.; Whittaker, A. (Society for Range Management, 2007-11-01)
      Soil nutrient availability influences plant invasions. Resin capsules were used to examine soil nutrient bioavailability along 2 sagebrush-grassland elevation transects in the east Tintic Range (Utah) and Shoshone Range (Nevada). In the fall of 2001, treatments were applied to 3 replicate plots at each site, which included prescribed burning, herbaceous vegetation removal, and controls. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) was overseeded in small subplots within each treatment. Following treatments in each plot, resin capsules were installed at 15-cm depth in a shrub interspace and a B. tectorum-overseeded area. Nutrient availability was integrated during late fall to spring and spring to late fall for 2 years. Herbaceous vegetation removal increased availability of nitrate (Nevada and Utah) and Ca and Mg (Nevada only) but only during the second sampling period (growing season). Availability of K and ortho-P (Nevada and Utah) and nitrate (Nevada only) was greater on prescribed burned plots. For Utah, availability of ortho-P, K, Ca, Mg, and Fe generally increased with increasing elevation. Availability of Ca, Mg, K, and Fe was greatest during late fall to spring integration periods for Nevada. Overseeding with B. tectorum interacted with the burn treatment to influence availability of Ca, Mg, and Fe (Nevada sites only). Patterns of nutrient availability can be explained by a combination of decreased root uptake in relation to mineralization, differences in soil water content with season and elevation, and nutrient release from vegetation and soil as a consequence of prescribed burning. Herbaceous vegetation removal and burning can raise nitrate availability and increase risk of invasion by nitrophilic species such as B. tectorum. Nutrient availability can be out of phase with plant growth; plants capable of taking up nutrients during cold periods may have a competitive advantage. Resin capsules have utility in quantifying the effects of treatments on the availability of many soil nutrients.