Soil morphology of canopy and intercanopy sites in a Piñon-Juniper woodland Academic Article uri icon


  • Piñon-juniper woodlands in the semiarid western USA have expanded as much as fivefold during the last 150 yr, often accompanied by losses of understory vegetation and increasing soil erosion. We conducted this study to determine the differences in soil morphology between canopy and intercanopy locations within a piñon (Pinus edulis Engelm.)-juniper [Juniperus monosperma (Engelm.) Sarg.] woodland with uniform parent material, topography, and climate. The woodland studied, located near Los Alamos, NM, has a mean tree age of 135 yr. We examined soil morphology by augering 135 profiles in a square grid pattern and comparing soils under piñon and juniper canopies with intercanopy soils. Only two of the 17 morphological properties compared showed significant differences. The B horizons make up a slightly greater proportion of total profile thickness in intercanopy soils, and there are higher percentages of coarse fragments in the lower portions of canopy soil profiles. Canopy soils have lower mean pH and higher mean organic C than intercanopy soils. Regression analysis showed that most soil properties did not closely correspond with tree size, but total soil thickness and B horizon thickness are significantly greater under the largest piñon trees, and soil reaction is lower under the largest juniper trees. Our findings suggest that during the period in which piñon-juniper woodlands have been expanding, the trees have had only minor effects on soil morphology.

author list (cited authors)

  • Davenport, D. W., Wilcox, B. P., & Breshears, D. D.

publication date

  • November 1996