Soil moisture and biogeochemical factors influence the distribution of annual Bromus species


Abiotic factors have a strong influence on where annual Bromus species are found. At the large regional scale, temperature and precipitation extremes determine the boundaries of Bromus occurrence. At the more local scale, soil characteristics and climate influence distribution, cover, and performance. In hot, dry, summer-rainfall-dominated deserts (Sonoran, Chihuahuan), little or no Bromus is found, likely due to timing or amount of soil moisture relative to Bromus phenology. In hot, winter-rainfall-dominated deserts (parts of the Mojave Desert), Bromus rubens is widespread and correlated with high phosphorus availability. It also responds positively to additions of nitrogen alone or with phosphorus. On the Colorado Plateau, with higher soil moisture availability, factors limiting Bromus tectorum populations vary with life stage: phosphorus and water limit germination, potassium and the potassium/magnesium ratio affect winter performance, and water and potassium/magnesium affect spring performance. Controlling nutrients also change with elevation. In cooler deserts with winter precipitation (Great Basin, Columbia Plateau) and thus even greater soil moisture availability, B. tectorum populations are controlled by nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium. Experimental nitrogen additions stimulate Bromus performance. The reason for different nutrients limiting in dissimilar climatic regions is not known, but it is likely that site conditions such as soil texture (as it affects water and nutrient availability), organic matter, and/or chemistry interact in a manner that regulates nutrient availability and limitations. Under future drier, hotter conditions, Bromus distribution is likely to change due to changes in the interaction between moisture and nutrient availability.

  • Citation: Belnap, Jayne; Stark, John M.; Rau, Benjamin M.; Allen, Edith B.; Phillips, Susan 2016. Soil moisture and biogeochemical factors influence the distribution of annual Bromus species. In: M.J. Germino et al. (eds.), Exotic Brome-Grasses in Arid and Semiarid Ecosystems of the Western US, Springer Series on Environmental Management. 227-256.  30 p. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-24930-8_8.

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