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Ecology of the Shortgrass SteppeA Long-Term Perspective$
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W. K. Lauenroth and I. C. Burke

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195135824

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195135824.001.0001

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Soil Development and Distribution in the Shortgrass Steppe Ecosystem

Soil Development and Distribution in the Shortgrass Steppe Ecosystem

(p.30) 3 Soil Development and Distribution in the Shortgrass Steppe Ecosystem
Ecology of the Shortgrass Steppe

Eugene F. Kelly

Caroline M. Yonker

Oxford University Press

Beneath the gently rolling, seemingly mundane topography that characterizes the shortgrass steppe is a complex mosaic of soils. Many of these soils are superimposed upon older, buried soils that formed in other millennia under different climatic regimes. The nature of this soil mosaic reveals much about the past and dictates much about the future of the shortgrass steppe. There is considerable heterogeneity among soils of the shortgrass steppe, yet they maintain a high degree of homogeneity when contrasted with soils of other ecosystems. The driving forces that make these soils alike are a semiarid climate and a resilient plant community ( P ielke and Doesken, chapter 2, this volume; and Lauenroth, chapter 5, this volume). The combined effects of vegetation and climate on soil development yield generally predictable results. Shortgrass steppe soils are characterized by the accumulation of organic matter in the surface (0–20 cm). Approximately 60% of the graminoid root mass resides in the - rst 10 cm of mineral soil (Schimel et al., 1986); 90% is contained in the surface 20 cm (Schimel et al., 1985). Surface horizons typically are darker hued than underlying horizons and have organic carbon contents that average 1% to 3% (Yonker et al., 1988). Shortgrass steppe soils maintain a high-percent base saturation (and high pH) because of low leaching and weathering potentials that result from semiarid conditions. Zones of secondary calcium carbonate accumulation are common in subsurface horizons and may appear as threads, seams, or nodules (Blecker et al., 1997). In addition, these soils are characterized by zones of secondary clay accumulation in subsurface horizons; clay accumulations are a result of either the in situ weathering of primary minerals or the translocation of clay minerals leached from the surface horizon. In either case, the maximum depth of accumulation gives some indication of the time-averaged depth of the wetting front in the soil pro- le (Blecker et al., 1997). The factors that produce considerable heterogeneity among the soils of the shortgrass steppe are related to parent material, the age of the soil, and the subtleties of topography. These factors vary at a - ner scale than either vegetation or climate.

Keywords:   Arkansas, Bankard soil, Calcic horizons, Edgar soil, Forest soil, Hastings soil, Microwatersheds, Olney soil, Paleoclimate, Remmit soil

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