Estimating forest-grassland dynamics using soil phytolith assemblages and δ13C of soil organic matter

B. K. Kerns, Margaret M Moore, S. C. Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Our objectives were to examine the ralationship between contemporary vegetation and surface soil phytolith assemblages, and use phytoliths and 813 of soil organic matter (SOM) to explore forest-grassland vegetation dynamics. We established plots within three canopy types (open, old-growth and dense young pine) with different grass species compositions in a Pinus ponderosa forest in northern Arizona and collected vegetation data and surface (0-2 cm) and subsurface (2-7 cm) mineral soil samples. Surface soil phytolith assemblages strongly reflected vegetation at the site scale (within several km2). Local vegetation patterns (< 50 m2) associated with overstory canopy types were weakly detected. Significantly fewer C4 grass and ponderosa pine phytoliths were found in subsurface compared to surface soils. Surface 813C values showed no difference among canopy types. Subsurface 813C values were significantly (+ 0.83 %) more enriched in 13C than surface values. Phytolith assemblages and 813C of SOM reflect long-term accumulation of organic matter in soils and may not mirror contemporary vegetation for many reasons, including spatial shifts in species distribution and productivity. Considering all our phytolith and 813C evidence, we suggest that C4 grasses were more widely distributed but less abundant, grasses were more spatially continuous, total grass productivity was greater, and species in the genus Kneleria and Bromus were more common in the past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-488
Number of pages11
JournalEcoscience
Volume8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

phytoliths
phytolith
soil dynamics
soil organic matter
grasslands
grassland
vegetation
grass
grasses
soil
soil surface
Pinus ponderosa
canopy
productivity
Bromus
overstory
vegetation dynamics
mineral soils
soil sampling
biogeography

Keywords

  • δCC
  • C
  • C
  • Forest understory
  • Grasslands
  • Non-metric multidimensional scaling
  • Northern Arizona
  • Opal
  • Phytolith assemblages
  • Pinus ponderosa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

Estimating forest-grassland dynamics using soil phytolith assemblages and δ13C of soil organic matter. / Kerns, B. K.; Moore, Margaret M; Hart, S. C.

In: Ecoscience, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2001, p. 478-488.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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