Phosphorus content in five representative landscape units of the Lomas de Arequipa (Atacama Desert-Peru)

André Fabre, Thierry Gauquelin, Jose Francisco Villasante Benavides, Aldo Ortega, Henri Puig

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6 Scopus citations


Phosphorus forms and content were studied in soils of the Lomas de Arequipa (Atacama desert, Peru) using a fractionation method. These Lomas are small hills periodically submitted to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) which causes heavy rainfall. Sample soils were randomly selected in five landscape types characterized by vegetation: cactaceae (Cac), cactaceae and herbaceous (CacHerb), shrubs (Shr), trees with cover < 60% (Tree) and shrubs or trees with cover > 60%) (ShrTree). All the soils were strongly acidic and classified as loamy sand, sandy loam or silt loam. Organic carbon content was under 1% in Cac or CacHerb, then increased strongly in ShrTree (6.50%). Considering phosphorus, all the forms (labile as well resistant forms) increased markedly from Cac soils to ShrTree soils. In all the soils, the labile forms (Resin-P: range 45-105 μg g- 1; NaHCO3-Pi: 23-123 μg g - 1; or NaHCO3-Po: 10-122 μg g- 1) were very high. These high phosphorus contents were attributed to the specific climatic conditions of the Lomas that feature a long period of vegetation dormancy (very dry period) and a short period of growth, following ENSO-associated precipitation. We suggested that during the dry period, plant decay and microbial cells death lead to release and accumulation of labile P in the soil, the rainfall wetting the soil, permitting vegetation growth. In this respect, the Lomas climatic conditions contribute to soil fertility, especially as labile forms of phosphorus are chiefly concerned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-86
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 31 Jan 2006


  • Atacama desert
  • ENSO
  • Lomas
  • Peru
  • Phosphorus fractionation
  • Soils


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