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Groundwater availability mediates the ecosystem effects of an invasion of Prosopis pallidaAuthor(s): Bruce D. Dudley; Flint Hughes; Rebecca Ostertag
Source: Ecological Applications. 24(8): 1954-1971
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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DescriptionGroundwater levels in arid environments are dropping worldwide due to human extraction, and precipitation events are predicted to become rarer and more intense in many arid areas with global climate change. These changes will likely alter both primary productivity and plant–soil nutrient cycles. To better understand the nature of such alterations, we examined effects of groundwater availability on plant–soil nitrogen (N) cycling in areas invaded by the N-fixing phreatophyte, Prosopis pallida, on the dry leeward coast of Hawai‘i Island. Our aims were to quantify effects of groundwater availability to P. pallida on rates of litterfall N inputs and accretion in soils and to quantify effects of groundwater availability on N mineralization and leaching rates of inorganic N under natural rainfall conditions and simulated rain events. Stem water δ18O values indicate that P. pallida trees in lowland plots accessed shallow groundwater, while in upland plots they relied solely on rainfall. During drought periods, P. pallida at upland plots experienced water stress, evidenced by lower stem water potentials, higher water-use efficiency, and lower predawn photosynthetic performance than at lowland plots. Prosopis pallida basal area was 5.3 times greater at lowland plots, and these plots exhibited 17 times higher carbon (C), 24 times higher N, and 35 times higher phosphorus (P) additions via litterfall, indicating that productivity of this phreatophyte was decoupled from rainfall where groundwater was present. Total N mass in soils was 4.7 times greater where groundwater was accessible, supporting the case that groundwater access increased N2 fixation at a stand level. In contrast, N mineralization and leaching losses from soils, though substantially greater in lowland relative to upland areas, were strongly controlled by rainfall. Results provide clear examples of how invasive species with particular functional attributes (i.e., N-fixing phreatophytes) exploit otherwise inaccessible resources to dramatically alter the functioning of the systems they invade and how anthropogenic changes to hydrological processes can also alter ecosystem-level impacts of biological invasions. Results also illustrate a mechanism by which regional groundwater drawdown may reduce soil nutrient accretion and availability in arid regions.
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CitationDudley, Bruce D.; Flint Hughes, R.; Ostertag, Rebecca. 2014. Groundwater availability mediates the ecosystem effects of an invasion of Prosopis pallida. Ecological Applications. 24(8): 1954-1971.
Keywords15N, 18O, arid, carbon, groundwater, Hawai‘i Island, invasion, leaching, litterfall, mesquite, phosphorus, Prosopis pallida
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