Modeling Soil Quality Thresholds to Ecosystem Recovery at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA

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The objective of this research was to use a simple model of soil C and N dynamics to predict nutrient thresholds to ecosystem recovery on degraded soils at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the southeastern USA. The model calculates aboveground and belowground biomass, soil C inputs and dynamics, soil N stocks and availability, and plant N requirements. A threshold is crossed when predicted soil N supplies fall short of predicted N required to sustain biomass accrual at a specified recovery rate. Four factors were important to development of thresholds to recovery: (1) initial amounts of aboveground biomass, (2) initial soil C ... continued below

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Garten Jr., C.T. March 8, 2004.

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The objective of this research was to use a simple model of soil C and N dynamics to predict nutrient thresholds to ecosystem recovery on degraded soils at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the southeastern USA. The model calculates aboveground and belowground biomass, soil C inputs and dynamics, soil N stocks and availability, and plant N requirements. A threshold is crossed when predicted soil N supplies fall short of predicted N required to sustain biomass accrual at a specified recovery rate. Four factors were important to development of thresholds to recovery: (1) initial amounts of aboveground biomass, (2) initial soil C stocks (i.e., soil quality), (3) relative recovery rates of biomass, and (4) soil sand content. Thresholds to ecosystem recovery predicted by the model should not be interpreted independent of a specified recovery rate. Initial soil C stocks influenced the predicted patterns of recovery by both old field and forest ecosystems. Forests and old fields on soils with varying sand content had different predicted thresholds to recovery. Soil C stocks at barren sites on Fort Benning generally lie below predicted thresholds to 100% recovery of desired future ecosystem conditions defined on the basis of aboveground biomass (18000 versus 360 g m{sup -2} for forests and old fields, respectively). Calculations with the model indicated that reestablishment of vegetation on barren sites to a level below the desired future condition is possible at recovery rates used in the model, but the time to 100% recovery of desired future conditions, without crossing a nutrient threshold, is prolonged by a reduced rate of forest growth. Predicted thresholds to ecosystem recovery were less on soils with more than 70% sand content. The lower thresholds for old field and forest recovery on more sandy soils are apparently due to higher relative rates of net soil N mineralization in more sandy soils. Calculations with the model indicate that a combination of desired future conditions, initial levels of soil quality (defined by soil C stocks), and the rate of biomass accumulation determines the predicted success of ecosystem recovery on disturbed soils.

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-2004/41
  • Grant Number: DE-AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/885635 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 885635
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc891875

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Creation Date

  • March 8, 2004

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 23, 2016, 2:42 p.m.

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  • Nov. 29, 2016, 8:22 p.m.

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Garten Jr., C.T. Modeling Soil Quality Thresholds to Ecosystem Recovery at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA, report, March 8, 2004; [Tennessee]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc891875/: accessed September 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.