Controls of soil spatial variability in a dry tropical forest

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Abstract

© 2016 Pulla et al.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. We examined the roles of lithology, topography, vegetation and fire in generating localscale ( < 1 km 2 ) soil spatial variability in a seasonally dry tropical forest (SDTF) in southern India. For this, we mapped soil (available nutrients, Al, total C, pH, moisture and texture in the top 10cm), rock outcrops, topography, all native woody plants ≥1 cm diameter at breast height (DBH), and spatial variation in fire frequency (times burnt during the 17 years preceding soil sampling) in a permanent 50-ha plot. Unlike classic catenas, lower elevation soils had lesser moisture, plant-available Ca, Cu, Mn, Mg, Zn, B, clay and total C. The distribution of plant-available Ca, Cu, Mn and Mg appeared to largely be determined by the whole-rock chemical composition differences between amphibolites and hornblende-biotite gneisses. Amphibolites were associated with summit positions, while gneisses dominated lower elevations, an observation that concurs with other studies in the region which suggest that hillslopescale topography has been shaped by differential weathering of lithologies. Neither NO 3 - -N nor NH 4 + -N was explained by the basal area of trees belonging to Fabaceae, a family associated with N-fixing species, and no long-term effects of fire on soil parameters were detected. Local-scale lithological variation is an important first-order control over soil variability at the hillslope scale in this SDTF, by both direct influence on nutrient stocks and indirect influence via control of local relief.

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Pulla, S., Riotte, J., Suresh, H. S., Dattaraja, H. S., & Sukumar, R. (2016). Controls of soil spatial variability in a dry tropical forest. PLoS ONE, 11(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153212

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