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Microenvironmental and vegetational heterogeneity induced by phytogenic nebkhas in an arid coastal ecosystem

, : Microenvironmental and vegetational heterogeneity induced by phytogenic nebkhas in an arid coastal ecosystem. Plant & Soil 247(2): 283-293, December

The nebkhas of woody plants represent distinct habitats in arid and semiarid ecosystems. Nebkhas are mounds composed of wind-borne sediment within or around shrub canopies. We studied the effects of widely spaced nebkhas of Retama raetam shrub on their microenvironment and associated herbaceous vegetation in the Mediterranean coast of Sinai Peninsula. Our measurements included nebkha size (height and width) and shrub size (canopy height and diameter). We identified four distinct microsites at each nebkha: crest, mid-slope, edge, and internebkha space. We measured soil temperature and moisture, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), and soil properties. The plant species grown at each microsite were identified and their densities were measured. Average soil temperature and PAR were highest at internebkha space and lowest at nebkha crest. The maximum diurnal temperature and PAR of internebkhas exceeded that of nebkhas. Soil moisture and nutrient concentrations showed a gradient of spatial heterogeneity and were highest at the nebkha edge. Regression analysis indicated that total herbaceous plant density was significantly related to nebkha size, and to shrub canopy diameter and area. Detrended correspondence analysis indicated that patterns of species composition were correlated with the spatial variability in soil moisture and nutrient content along the gradient of increasing distance from the nebkha crest. It is assumed that shrub canopy and its nebkha interact in governing ecosystem functioning in this environment.


DOI: 10.1023/a:1021548711206

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