Seasonal dynamics of nitrogen cycling for a Prosopis woodland in the Sonoran Desert

  • P. W. Rundel
  • E. T. Nilsen
  • M. R. Sharifi
  • R. A. Virginia
  • W. M. Jarrell
  • D. H. Kohl
  • G. B. Shearer
Part of the Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences book series (DPSS, volume 6)


Prosopis woodlands in the Sonoran Desert have levels of above-ground biomass and productivity much higher than those predicted for desert plant communities with such low levels of precipitation. A stand of P. glandulosa near the Salton Sea, California, has 13,000kg ha-1 above-ground biomass and a productivity of 3700 kg ha-1 yr-1. Such a high level of productivity is possible because Prosopis is decoupled from the normal limiting factors of water and nitrogen availability. Soil nitrogen contents for the upper 60 cm of soil beneath Prosopis canopies have 1020 g m-2 total nitrogen, 25 per cent of which is in the form of nitrate. Such accumulations of nitrogen may be the result of active symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Early estimates suggest that about 25–30 kg N ha-1 yr-1 is fixed in these stands. Since Prosopis covers only 34% of the ground surface and its water resources are not limiting, much higher levels of nitrogen fixation and productivity may be possible in managed stands at greater densities.

Key words

Desert woodland N-cycling N2fixation Prosopis glandulosa Sonoran Desert 
Dinamica estacional del ciclo de nitrógeno de un bosque de Prosopis en el desierto Sonorense


Los bosques de Prosopis en el desierto Sonorense tienen nivelés de production de biomasa (parte aérea) y productividad mucho mayores que las predecibles para comunidades de plantas de desierto con muy bajos nivelés de precipitation. Los bosques freatofiticos de P. glandulosa cerca del Mar de Salton, California, producen 13 000kg ha-1 de biomasa aérea con una productividad 3 700 kg ha-1 año-1. Tan aito nivel de productividad es posible porque Prosopis no es afectado por los factores que limitan la aprovechabilidad de agua y nitrógeno.

Los primeros 60cm del perfil del suelo bajo el dosel de Prosopis contienen 1020g m-2 de nitrógeno total, el 25% existe en la forma de nitrato. Tales acumulaciones de nitrógeno pueden ser el resultado de la fijación simbiótica activa. Los primeros valores estimados sugieren que son fijados entre 25–30kg N ha-1 año-1 en estos bosques. Puesto que Prosopis cubre solamente 34% de esta área y sus recursos de agua no son limitantes, puede ser posible la obtention de mayores nivelés de fijación de nitrógeno y productividad de los cultivos si se manejan con mayores densidades.


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers, The Hague 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. W. Rundel
    • 1
  • E. T. Nilsen
    • 1
  • M. R. Sharifi
    • 1
  • R. A. Virginia
    • 2
  • W. M. Jarrell
    • 2
  • D. H. Kohl
    • 3
  • G. B. Shearer
    • 3
  1. 1.Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of Soil and Environmental SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  3. 3.Dept. of BiologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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