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Changes in soil properties and vegetation following disturbance of alaskan usa arctic tundra



Changes in soil properties and vegetation following disturbance of alaskan usa arctic tundra



Journal of Applied Ecology 18(2): 605-618



Soil characteristics and vegetation were studied in vehicle tracks and adjacent undisturbed tundra along local moisture gradients at 4 tundra sites in northern Alaska. Vehicle tracks generally had 2.degree. C higher soil temperatures, deeper thaw and higher concentrations of available soil phosphate than adjacent undisturbed tundra, but did not differ consistently from controls in soil bulk density, volumetric moisture content, pH or soil organic content. Vegetation in vehicle tracks had fewer species than controls, reflecting decreased abundance of shrubs, particularly evergreens and increased dominance by a few species of graminoids. Wet and mesic tracks exhibited a 2- to 15-fold increase in above-ground standing crop of N and P as a result of increased leaf nutrient concentrations and increased leaf biomass of graminoids, a consequence of increases in both shoot density and shoot weight. The hypothesis was rejected that the known temperature effects upon root growth, nutrient absorption and organic matter mineralization account for the increased standing crop of biomass and nutrients in vehicle trails. Other factors, perhaps related to soil water and nutrient movement, are largely responsible for the increased nutrient status and production of vehicle tracks and exert an important control over growth in undisturbed tundra.

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Accession: 004912028

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