What is the P value of Siberian soils? Soil phosphorus status in south-western Siberia and comparison with a global data set
Abstract. Climate change is particularly strong in northern Eurasia and substantial ecological changes are expected in this extensive region. The reshaping and migration northwards of bioclimatic zones may offer opportunities for agricultural development in western and central Siberia. However, the bioclimatic vegetation models currently employed for projections still do not consider soil fertility, in spite of this being highly critical for plant growth. In the present study, we surveyed the phosphorus (P) status in the south-west of Siberia where soils have developed on loess parent material. We selected six sites differing in pedoclimatic conditions and the soil was sampled at different depths down to 1 m in aspen (Populus tremula L.) forest as well as in grassland areas. The P status was assessed by conventional methods and by isotope dilution kinetics. We found that P concentrations and stocks, as well as their distribution through the soil profile, were fairly homogeneous on the regional scale studied, although there were some differences between sites (particularly in organic P). The young age of the soils, together with slow kinetics of soil formation processes have probably not yet resulted in a sufficiently wide range of soil physico-chemical conditions to observe a more diverging P status. The comparison of our data set with similar vegetation contexts on the global scale revealed that the soils of south-western Siberia, and more generally of northern Eurasia, often have (very) high levels of total, organic and inorganic P. The amount of plant-available P in topsoils, estimated by the isotopically exchangeable phosphate ions, was not particularly high but was intermediate on the global scale. However, large stocks of plant-available P are stored in subsurface layers which currently have low fine-root exploration intensities. These results suggest that the P resource is unlikely to constrain vegetation growth and agricultural development under the present conditions or in the near future.