Contributions of Soil Communities to Ecosystem Respiration and Greenhouse Gas Emmisions in a Piñon-Juniper Woodland at the Sevilleta National Widlife Refuge, New Mexico (2011)



Global climate change processes, especially prolonged droughts and increasingly high temperatures, are significantly affecting numerous arid ecosystems across the state of New Mexico.  One of the more adversely affected ecosystems in New Mexico is piñon-juniper woodland (PJ), which includes areas near Mountainair, New Mexico, USA.  Because changes in ambient temperature and decreases in water availability show pervasive effects on the above-ground status of existing PJ woodlands in New Mexico, it seems likely that the effects of changes in these two master variables will manifest themselves within soil processes such as soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition rates and soil respiration rates, as well as nutrient cycling rates and availabilities to both plants and soil microbial communities. 

We conducted analyses of soil physicochemical properties and soil fungal biomass via soil ergosterol content, as well as evaluating the activity rates of multiple hydrolytic exoenzymes, which are indicative of fungal activity in soils.  Samples were collected from multiple tree-to-tree competition gradients that were identified in May/June of 2011.  These gradients were established based on the type of mycorrhizal fungus types expected to occupy the soil community established beneath the canopy of a focal tree, with there being two focal trees in each gradient.  Gradients were established between two live piñon trees (Pinus edulis), two juniper trees (Juniperus monosperma), a live piñon and live juniper, and a dead piñon and live juniper.  We only sampled from under live trees at the control site.

In order to obtain these samples, we collected soil samples from two different sites in a PJ woodland located within the boundaries of the Deer Canyon ranch. Changes in soil conditions were captured by sampling from the two sites at multiple times throughout the summer of 2011.  We collected samples from Dr. Marcy Litvak’s girdled PJ woodland eddy-flux tower site in June, July, August and finally in late September.  We also collected samples from Dr. Litvak’s control PJ woodland tower site in June and September of 2011.  Significant differences in the activity rates of the hydrolytic exoenzymes alanine aminopeptidase, alkaline phosphatase, β-d-glucosidase, and β-N-acetyl glucosaminidase were observed within soils collected at multiple times from June through September when comparing the observed rates of activities under the trees in the live piñon to live piñon gradients vs. the juniper to juniper gradients.  These differences were observed in samples from multiple dates at the girdled site without there being significant differences in soil fungal biomass across seasons or study sites.  Continued work with the established sites on a year-to-year basis could provide an insight into how the fungal communities within New Mexican PJ woodlands will respond to future changes in soil conditions as global climate change processes advance in New Mexico.

Data set ID: 


Date Range: 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 to Friday, September 28, 2012

Publication Date: 

Monday, July 30, 2012



Additional Project roles: 


Data Manager


Field Crew