|Title||Contrasting ecosystem recovery on two soil textures: implications for carbon mitigation and grassland conservation|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2010|
|Authors||Baer, SG, Meyer, CK, Bach, EM, Klopf, RP, Six, J|
Understanding processes that promote or constrain ecosystem recovery from disturbance is needed to predict the restorative potential of degraded systems. We quantified a suite of ecosystem properties and processes across two chronosequences of restored grasslands on contrasting soil textures to test the hypothesis that restorations on silty clay loam soil would exhibit greater recovery of soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) pools and fluxes than on loamy fine sand because soil with higher clay content possesses a greater capacity to physico-chemically protect organic matter. Warm-season grass aboveground net primary productivity was similar between the two soil textures. Root biomass increased and root quality (as indexed by C:N ratio) decreased across both chronosequences. An asymptote in the accumulation of N in roots in the silty clay loam chronosequence resulted in wider C:N ratios of roots than in the loamy fine sand chronosequence. Total soil C (TC) and microbial biomass C (MBC) increased across the silty clay loam chronosequence at 21.2 and 5.7 g C·m−2·yr−1, respectively, and contained >6 times the amount of C in large macroaggregates and nearly 3 times the aggregate mean weighted diameter (MWD) relative to cultivated soil following 15 yrs of restoration. In contrast, there were no changes in TC, MBC, or MWD in the loamy fine sand chronosequence. Total and microbial biomass N increased at 2.0 and 0.27 g N·m−2·yr−1, respectively, across the silty clay loam chronosequence, and restored soil contained nearly 6 times large macroaggregate N than cultivated soil following 15 yrs of restoration. Potential net N mineralization rates declined with years of grass establishment in both soil textures, but overall rates were lower in the silty clay loam soil relative to the loamy fine sand, which was attributed to lower quality root systems, more improved soil structure, and larger microbial biomass. Thus, the potential for restored agricultural lands to mitigate CO2 emissions over the short term cannot be generalized across all soils. Lastly, the low restorative potential of cultivated loamy fine sand soil through grassland restoration within two decades (relevant to many conservation programs) underscores the need to prioritize preservation of remnant sand prairies.