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Rhizosphere-mediated effects of the invasive grass Bromus tectorum L. and native Elymus elymoides on nitrogen cycling in Great Basin Desert soils


Background and aims: There is evidence that the invasive grass Bromus tectorum can affect soil nitrogen (N) cycling, possibly leading to a positive plant-soil feedback. Rhizosphere priming of N mineralization could provide a mechanistic explanation for such a feedback. Methods: We conducted a greenhouse study to isolate rhizosphere effects on N cycling by the invasive annual grass, Bromus tectorum L., and the native perennial grass, Elymus elymoides (Raf.) Swezey, in invaded and uninvaded soils. We compared the rhizosphere priming effect (RPE) on N mineralization by species and the distribution of N in various pools by planting treatment and soil type. Results: B. tectorum had a negative RPE (−23 and −22 % in invaded and uninvaded soils, respectively), while E. elymoides had no significant RPE. B. tectorum was more competitive over E. elymoides in invaded compared to uninvaded soil. Conclusions: B. tectorum had a negative effect on soil N availability via root-mediated processes, even though its growth and competitiveness increased in invaded soils. Positive plant-soil feedback effects of B. tectorum may be mediated by aboveground inputs rather than belowground and/or depend on site-specific conditions.

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