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Relationships between plant spatial patterns, water infiltration capacity, and plant community composition in semi-arid mediterranean ecosystems along stress gradients

AuthorsPueyo, Yolanda CSIC ORCID ; Moret-Fernández, David CSIC ORCID ; Sáiz Bustamante, Hugo CSIC ORCID; Bueno, C. Guillermo; Alados, Concepción L. CSIC ORCID
livestock grazing
livestock grazing
soil compaction
soil crust
Vegetation spatial
water run-off
water run-on
Issue DateApr-2013
CitationPueyo Y, Moret-Fernández D, Saiz H, Bueno CG, Alados CL. Relationships between plant spatial patterns, water infiltration capacity, and plant community composition in semi-arid mediterranean ecosystems along stress gradients. Ecosystems 16 (3): 452-466 (2013)
AbstractWater redistribution from bare soil to vegetation patches is a key feature of semi-arid ecosystems, and is responsible for their patchy vegetation patterns. The magnitude of water redistribution depends on the properties of the bare soil (which determine the amount of water run-off) and the capacity of vegetation patches to trap water run-on. We examined the relationships between plant spatial patterns, water infiltration into bare soil, and plant community composition in semi-arid sites with different hydro-physical properties (silty and gypseous soils) in NE Spain. We also studied the effect of two stressors, aridity and grazing, on water infiltration and plant spatial patterns. Our results indicate a negative correlation of bare soil sorptivity (the capacity to absorb water by capillarity) and vegetation aggregation. There was a strong positive correlation between perennial grass cover and the spatial aggregation of vegetation, but aggregation was not associated with positive associations of different plant types. The aggregation of vegetation was positively correlated with species richness and the overall extent of vegetation cover. Grazing reduced water infiltration into silty soils, which are prone to compaction. In contrast, soil crust affected the hydrology of gypseous soils, especially in the most arid sites, where grazing increased infiltration, reducing surface sealing due to breaking of the soil crust. Together, our results suggest that biotic and abiotic factors affect the hydro-physical properties of soils in the semi-arid ecosystems of NE Spain, which is linked to the plant communities through the spatial distribution of plants.
Description15 Pags., 3 Tabls., 6 Figs. the definitive version is available at: http://link.springer.com/journal/10021
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10021-012-9620-5
Appears in Collections:(IPE) Artículos
(EEAD) Artículos
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