Soil-Plant Diversity Relationships on a Disturbed Site in Northwestern Colorado

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Soil Science Society of America Journal



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A 5‐yr‐old revegetation plot in the Piceance Basin of northwestern Colorado was used to study the relationship between several soil properties and plant species diversity. Soil properties, including coarse fragment content, topography, depth to bedrock, rooting depth, soil volume, fertility, and salt content, were quantified for 108 subplots. Using simple and multiple regression techniques, plant diversity on the subplots was correlated with the various soil properties. A seed mixture composed of introduced grasses and forbs was used most extensively to study diversity‐soil physical property relationships. For these plots, percent large coarse fragments (> 4.76 mm) within the rooting depth had a high positive correlation with the Shannon‐Weiner diversity index. Depth to bedrock, rooting depth, total soil volume, soil volume within the rooting depth, and a topographic index all exhibited negative correlations with the Shannon‐Weiner index. On plots seeded with a native grass‐forb seed mixture, where variation in salt content was greatest, SAR, ESP, and EC had positive correlations with species richness. When all seed mixtures were considered, rate of fertilizer application had a negative correlation with the Shannon‐Weiner index. In every case where a regression was significant, soil properties normally associated with high production resulted in low diversity and soil properties normally associated with low production resulted in high diversity. Mechanisms are proposed to explain the relationships between soil factors and diversity. Management techniques are also suggested which could be incorporated into the reclamation process to increase plant diversity.

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