Landscape soil variability in relatively static and dynamic properties in arid and semi-arid ecosystems: do they matter for restoration?

TitleLandscape soil variability in relatively static and dynamic properties in arid and semi-arid ecosystems: do they matter for restoration?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsHerrick JE, Salley S.W, Bestelmeyer BT, Brown JR, Wills S.A.
Conference Name2016 Ecological Society of America Meeting
Date Published08/2016
Publisher2016 Ecological Society of America Meeting
Conference LocationFort lauderdale, FL
ARIS Log Number327392
Soils matter for restoration. Or do they? This paper takes a process-based approach to this question, using a combination of published literature, pedotransfer functions, and several datasets where a range of relatively static and dynamic soil properties were measured on four different soil types in relatively undegraded and degraded ecological states in the four northern Chihuahuan Desert ecological sites: Sandy, Shallow Sandy, Gyp Upland and Clay Loam.  Measured soil properties included soil texture, aggregate stability, water infiltration capacity, bulk density, penetrometer resistance, and soil organic carbon.
Like so many questions in ecology, the answer is “it depends”. It depends on the climate. It depends on what is being restored. And it depends on the soil property: how much does it matter to restoration success, how much does it vary naturally in the target landscape, and to what extent has the soil property been modified by degradation, and to what extent can it be enhanced prior to or during vegetation establishment? Our analyses, supported by additional published studies, show that while it is nearly always important to consider relatively static soil properties, such as soil texture, when planning restoration in semi-arid environments, the relative importance of dynamic soil properties varies widely across the landscape. The cost-effectiveness and success rate of restoration projects may be improved by careful consideration of when, where and what soil properties need to be considered in both selecting appropriate restoration treatments, and targeting these treatments to those parts of the landscape with the greatest potential for success. We conclude with a brief description of how existing assessment systems, including State and Transition Models, Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health, and Pedoderm Pattern Classes, can be used together to rapidly assess the status of key dynamic soil properties, and how the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS) can be used to rapidly describe and document relatively static properties using mobile phone apps.