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.
- Atacama desert
- Phosphorus fractionation