Decomposition of roots in a Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem

TitleDecomposition of roots in a Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1988
AuthorsWhitford WG, Stinnett K., Anderson JP
Date Published1988
Accession NumberJRN00072
Call Number00401
Keywordsarticle, articles, decomposition, roots, decomposition,roots, journal, journals, nitrogen immobilization, pesticide, Chlordane, rainfall simulation, decomposition, buried roots, root,decomposition, termite,decomposition

Mass losses of tethered buried roots of two woody shrubs and two herbaceous annuals buried in plots irrigated at 25 mm/moth-1, 6 mm/week-1 and no irrigation were measured. At the end of 1 year, 10-15% of the mass of the herbaceous annual roots remained and 60% of the mass of woody shrub roots remained. There were no differences in mass loss attributable to added water. Rates of mass losses of roots in the Chihuahuan Desert were equal to or higher than those reported from mesic ecosystems. Roots of woody shrubs had relatively constant C:N ratios through the experiment. There was significant N immobilization in Baileya multiradiata roots. Percent mass loss of grass roots, Erioneuron pulchellum, and herbaceous annual roots, B. multiradiata, in plots without termites was 15%. These data suggest that subterranean termites are responsible for most of the mass loss and mineralization of carbon and nitrogen in dead grass and herbaceous roots in the northern Chihuahuan Desert.