Comparing the use of leaf and soil analysis as N and P availability indices in a wildfire chronosequence
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Two types of measures have traditionally been used to monitor changes after disturbances in the nutrient availability of forest ecosystems: (1) soil nutrient pools and transformation rates and (2) foliar nutrient content. We used a wildfire chronosequence in natural and unmanaged Pinus canariensis forests to determine which kind of measure is more effective in discriminating between disturbed and undisturbed plots and to determine whether the different availability indices provide comparable and consistent results within the chronosequence and between different sampling dates. The results showed that (1) foliar N and P concentrations were the variables that best discriminated between the plots of the chronosequence, (2) the various soil N availability indices neither showed steady relationships nor predicted the plant nutrient availability, and (3) P availability indices showed steady relationships and predicted plant nutrient availability. Due to the changing nature of the soil N pools, repeated sampling over a long period of time could yield results different from those presented here. However, the large sampling effort required would favor the use of foliar nutrient concentrations as the most desirable first approach to the community’s nutritional status, especially when time or budget constraints are relevant.