Calcium Induces Long-Term Legacy Effects in a Subalpine Ecosystem

Schaffner, Urs; Alewell, Christine; Eschen, René; Matthies, Diethart; Spiegelberger, Thomas; Hegg, Otto (2012). Calcium Induces Long-Term Legacy Effects in a Subalpine Ecosystem. PLoS ONE, 7(12), e51818. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0051818

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Human activities have transformed a significant proportion of the world's land surface, with profound effects on ecosystem processes. Soil applications of macronutrients such as nitrate, phosphorus, potassium or calcium are routinely used in the management of croplands, grasslands and forests to improve plant health or increase productivity. However, while the effects of continuous fertilization and liming on terrestrial ecosystems are well documented, remarkably little is known about the legacy effect of historical fertilization and liming events in terrestrial ecosystems and of the mechanisms involved. Here, we show that more than 70 years after the last application of lime on a subalpine grassland, all major soil and plant calcium pools were still significantly larger in limed than in unlimed plots, and that the resulting shift in the soil calcium/aluminium ratio continues to affect ecosystem services such as primary production. The difference in the calcium content of the vegetation and the topmost 10 cm of the soil in limed vs. unlimed plots amounts to approximately 19.5 g m(-2), equivalent to 16.3% of the amount that was added to the plots some 70 years ago. In contrast, plots that were treated with nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium fertilizer in the 1930s did not differ from unfertilized plots in any of the soil and vegetation characteristics measured. Our findings suggest that the long-term legacy effect of historical liming is due to long-term storage of added calcium in stable soil pools, rather than a general increase in nutrient availability. Our results demonstrate that single applications of calcium in its carbonated form can profoundly and persistently alter ecosystem processes and services in mountain ecosystems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Vegetation Science (discontinued)

UniBE Contributor:

Hegg, Otto

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

1932-6203

Publisher:

Public Library of Science

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

16 Dec 2016 16:40

Last Modified:

14 Nov 2017 15:58

Publisher DOI:

10.1371/journal.pone.0051818

PubMed ID:

23284779

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.91277

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/91277

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