Impacts of vegetation type on soil phosphorus availability and fractions near the alpine timberline of the Tibetan Plateau
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Soil phosphorus (P) availability and fractions are influenced to a large extent by land use and cover changes. Inorganic P (IP) and organic P (OP) fractions in surface soils (0-20 cm) under typical vegetation types, including subalpine coniferous forests, alpine shrubs, and alpine shrub-meadows, near the alpine timberline of the eastern Tibetan Plateau of China, were measured by a modified Hedley fraction method. The results showed that OP is the dominant soil P fraction and the main source of available P in alpine soils near the timberline. Soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, and total P contents were higher in subalpine coniferous forests than in alpine shrubs and alpine shrub-meadows. Concentrations of soil labile P (the sums of Resin-IP, NaHCO3-IP, and NaHCO3-OP) were higher in subalpine coniferous forests than in alpine shrubs and alpine shrub-meadows, an observation that may be partially ascribed to the presence of deep litter layers generated by trees. Concentrations of soil labile and moderately organic P (NaHCO3-OP and NaOH-OP) in subalpine coniferous forests were also greater than in alpine shrubs and alpine shrub-meadows. Greater amounts of soil stable OP (extracted by concentrated HCl and cHCl.OP) were accumulated in alpine shrub-meadows compared to alpine shrubs or subalpine coniferous forests. The reduced availability of OP may be attributed mainly to increasing recalcitrant soil organic matter input in alpine shrub-meadows and alpine shrubs. Concentrations of IP associated with Ca minerals and parent materials (extracted by diluted HCl and HCl-IP, and extracted by concentrated HCl and cHCl-IP, respectively) were lower in subalpine coniferous forests, indicating that coniferous forests are more likely to use recalcitrant IP than alpine shrubs and alpine shrub-meadows. In this alpine region, land cover changes from subalpine coniferous forests to alpine shrubs and alpine shrub-meadows near the alpine timberline could decrease soil P conservation, availability, and supplementation.
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