Vegetation-soil relations in the lowlands of south-west Tasmania

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Abstract

A geographic survey of 14 south-west Tasmanian sedgeland-heaths revealed that soil organic matter is related to: water content: total nitrogen (N): total and exchangeable sodium (Na), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg); exchangeable potassium (K) cation exchange capacity; and total exchangeable bases. However, total and available phosphorus (P), total K and Iron (Fe). pH level and percentage base saturation were found to be Independent of organic content. Most of the soil nutrient capital is contained In the A0 horizon, the depth of which was found to be positively related to the time elapsed since the last fire. There is no clear relationship between rock type and soil fertility, but there is evidence of soil-vegetation interaction. The sedgeland-heath species have lower concentrations of P, Ca and Mg in their foliage and are more efficient In the withdrawal of P and K upon tissue senescence than the surrounding scrub and forest species. Over a vegetation transition from sedgeland-heath to forest on uniform geology there was a change in soil type. The forest was found to have more fertile soils and a higher concentration of nutrients in the above-ground biomass than the adjacent sedgeland-heath. The ecotone was burnt between 20–30 years prior to sampling, but the fire did not kill all the forest trees, and the structural differences suggest a mare rapid recovery of forest species. Soil fertility appears to be an important factor in controlling the rate of recovery and succession following a fire, especially if the nutrient-rich organic layer is burnt.

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