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We investigated recovery of soil chemical properties after restoration in semi-arid Western Australia, hypothesising that elevated nutrient concentrations would gradually decline post planting, but available phosphorus (P) concentrations would remain higher than reference conditions. We used a space-for-time substitution approach, comparing 10 planted old field plots with matched fallow cropland and reference woodlands. Sampling on planted old fields and reference woodland plots was stratified into open patches and under tree canopy to account for consistent differences between these areas. Soil samples to 10 cm depth were collected at 20 points across 30 plots. Ten samples were randomly collected and combined from locations beneath trees and a further 10 samples collected in gaps and combined, resulting in one soil sample for beneath tree canopy and another one for gap areas. Sampling occurred in autumn 2017 to capture potentially high concentrations of soil nitrate following the seasonal die-back of exotic annual plants typical of this Mediterranean-climate region. Samples were stored at 4 °C in plastic zip-lock bags until delivery to the CSBP Limited (Bibra Lake, WA) laboratories. Chemical parameters measured were plant available P (Colwell), plant available N (nitrate and ammonium), total N, plant available potassium (Colwell) and plant available sulphur (KCl 40). Lastly, electrical conductivity, pH (H2O, CaCl2), and soil texture were quantified as differences among plots could affect nutrient availability and soil chemistry. Soil available nutrients were also measured using Plant Root Simulator (PRS)TM resin probes (Western Ag Innovations, 2010, https://www.westernag.ca/inn). Probes contain anion or cation exchange membranes within a plastic stake. The membranes act as a sink for collecting nutrients and continuously absorb ions during deployment. Four anion and cation probes were placed vertically in the top 15 cm of soil at each stratification. Probes were left in the ground for three months during the growing season, from August to November 2017. This period was deemed suitable for semi-arid regions to achieve sufficient nutrient uptake but not too long to saturate probes. After removal, probes were cleaned with deionized water and sent to Western Ag Innovations (Canada) for analysis. All soil chemical analyses were conducted under laboratory conditions using standard test procedures. PRS probe nutrients are reported as micrograms/10cm2/time.
The data set contains information on topsoil chemistry for 20, 10 cm deep soil cores sampled along an elevation gradient (40-1550 m a.s.l.) in Far North Queensland. Information on soil C:N, N:P and C:P ratios and soil pH and organic matter content are provided. Soil elemental composition such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sulphur, iron, manganese, boron, aluminum, copper, zinc, lead, chromium, and cadmium are also provided. In addition, the data set contains information on soil δ<sup>13</sup>C and δ<sup>15</sup>N isotope concentration.