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Title: Land-use legacies of cultivation in sagebrush ecosystems affect soil nutrients and plant growth nearly a century after cultivation

item MORRIS, LESLEY - Utah State University
item Monaco, Thomas
item Blank, Robert - Bob
item LEGER, ELIZABETH - University Of Nevada
item Sheley, Roger

Submitted to: Plant Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/8/2013
Publication Date: 5/31/2013
Citation: Morris, L.R., Monaco, T.A., Blank, R.R., Leger, E., Sheley, R.L. 2013. Land-use legacies of cultivation in sagebrush ecosystems affect soil nutrients and plant growth nearly a century after cultivation. Plant Ecology. 214:831-844.

Interpretive Summary: The legacy of cultivation can affect soil fertility and therby plant performance for nearly a century. These legacy effects include altered soil chemistry and performance of forbs and grasses associated with elevated K and K:Mg ratios. Native species with higher rootcation exchange capacity may perform better on affected sites, thus more work should be done to elucidate how altered soils limit recovery of specific plant materials to improve the success of restoration.

Technical Abstract: The native vegetation in formerly cultivated areas of the Great Basin, USA remains altered nearly a century after fields were abandoned. We hypothesized that the legacy of cultivation affects plant-soil relationships through altered soil fertility. To test this hypothesis, we compared soil fertility between two formerly cultivated and adjacent noncultivated sites in two soil series. We then compared the biomass and foliar nutrient content of an exotic grass (Bromus tectorum L.), two native grasses (Elymus elymoides [Raf.] Swezey and Achnatherum hymenoides [Roem. and Schult.] Barkworth), and a native forb (Sphaeralcea grossularifoiia [Hook. and Arn.] Rydb) grown in these soils in the greenhouse. In both soil series, pH and acetate-extractable K were higher in cultivated soil, but acetate-extractable Ca and Mg, mineral NH4+ and NO3-, and soil-solution P had soil-specific responses. Biomass and nutrient content for all grass species were almost always greater when plants were grown in soil collected from noncultivated areas. The differences in nutrient content of species grown in cultivated soils suggests that plant-soil relationships have been altered in cultivated sites, especially with regard to K. Our findings also suggest that cultivation legacies can affect plant performance through altered soil fertility without the influence of exotic species.