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Effects of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) control on ecosystem nitrogen stocks in central Oregon, USA

TitleEffects of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) control on ecosystem nitrogen stocks in central Oregon, USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsAbdallah, MAB, Mata-Gonzalez, R, Noller, JS, Ochoa, CG
JournalJournal of Plant Ecology
Date Published05/2021
Keywordsaboveground nitrogen stock, belowground nitrogen stock, ecosystem nitrogen, Juniperus occidentalis, soil nitrogen, Woody plant encroachment


In the Oregon of USA, the control of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) is an accepted rangeland management practice to restore sagebrush steppe habitats of importance to wildlife and livestock. The effects of juniper cutting on ecosystem nitrogen, however, have not been well addressed although woody plant control has important implications for local watershed management and regional nitrogen pools.


We quantified ecosystem nitrogen stocks in two adjacent watersheds, comprised of a treated watershed (most juniper removed) and an untreated watershed (juniper not removed). Thirteen years after juniper removal, we measured aboveground nitrogen stocks for juniper trees, shrubs, grasses and litter in both watersheds. We also measured belowground nitrogen stocks (roots and soil) in both watersheds at two soil depths (0–25 and 25–50 cm).

Important Findings

Aboveground nitrogen stocks were 6.9 times greater in the untreated than in the treated watershed considering the much larger aboveground biomass. However, root nitrogen stocks were 3.1 times greater in the treated one due to the gain of understory root biomass associated with juniper cutting. Soil nitrogen stocks at both 0–25 and 25–50 cm depths were not affected by juniper removal. Overall, total ecosystem nitrogen stocks did not differ between the treated (9536 kg N ha−1) and untreated (9456 kg N ha−1) watersheds. The greatest ecosystem nitrogen accumulation (at least 95% total ecosystem nitrogen) resided belowground (soil 0–50 cm and roots) in both watersheds. This study provides evidence that the benefits of juniper removal can be attained without significantly affecting the capacity of ecosystem nitrogen storage.