Bromus tectorum invasion alters nitrogen dynamics in an undisturbed arid grassland ecosystem

L J SperryR D Evans


The nonnative annual grass Bromus tectorum has successfully replaced native vegetation in many arid and semiarid ecosystems. Initial introductions accompanied grazing and agriculture, making it difficult to separate the effects of invasion from physical disturbance. This study examined N dynamics in two recently invaded, undisturbed vegetation associations (C3 and C4). The response of these communities was compared to an invaded/ disturbed grassland. The invaded/disturbed communities had higher surface NH4+ input in spring, whereas there were no differences for surface input of NO3-. Soil inorganic N was dominated by NH4+, but invaded sites had greater subsurface soil NO3-. Invaded sites had greater total soil N at the surface four years post-invasion in undisturbed communities, but total N was lower in the invaded/disturbed communities. Soil delta15N increased with depth in the noninvaded and recently invaded communities, whereas the invaded/disturbed communities exhibited the opposite pattern. Enriched foliar delta15N values suggest that Bromus assimilated subsurface NO3-, whereas the native grasses were restricted to surface N. A Rayleigh distillation model accurately described decomposition patterns in the noninvaded commun...Continue Reading


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