Section 4
Chapter 3,309

The influence of soil desiccation on plant production, nutrient uptake and plant nutrient availability in two French floodplain grasslands

Van Oorschot, M.; Hayes, C.; Van Strien, I.

Regulated Rivers Research and Management 14(4): 313-327


DOI: 10.1002/(sici)1099-1646(199807/08)14:4<313::aid-rrr506>3.0.co;2-u
Accession: 003308342

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The effects of summer soil desiccation on plant production and plant nutrient availability (determined by wet chemical extraction) in floodplain grasslands along the rivers Allier and Loire in France were investigated. Soil desiccation in these river floodplains is the result of human interference with the natural flooding regime of rivers, such as dam construction and gravel mining. Flooding periods along the Allier have a longer duration (maximum of 202 days as opposed to 38 days for the Loire). The main comparison was between floodplain grasslands along the two rivers. Additional comparisons were made between relatively high lying, wetter areas ('ridges') and low lying, drier areas ('swales') within both floodplains. Thus, areas with different soil moisture content were examined, independent of river influences. The availability of P was higher in the Allier floodplain than in the Loire floodplain, but it was similar between ridges and swales. It was concluded that P-availability was not related to soil wetness, but to river sedimentation. Plant production, plant nutrient uptake, and biologically mediated soil processes, such as N-mineralization and nitrification, were all higher on the wetter Allier floodplain and in the wetter swales. These higher process rates were noted where higher amounts of soil bound carbon and nutrients were found as well. Plant production, N-mineralization and nitrification were moisture limited at the dry ridge on the Loire floodplain, as moisture levels were below the wilting point here (pF > 4.2). On the wetter parts of the floodplain, plant production was N-limited. This was concluded from low tissue N/P ratios (about 10) and a positive relation between plant production and N-mineralization. On the wetter parts, the rate of N-mineralization depended on the size of soil organic-N pools. The size of these pools was positively related to soil wetness, which can be interpreted as a positive effect of river flooding. Reduced flooding lowers the nutrient input to floodplains and contributes to the occurrence of soil desiccation in summer, which results in lower nutrient cycling and reduced accumulation of soil organic matter. These effects have negative consequences for important floodplain functions, such as nutrient retention and biomass production.

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