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Litter quality, land-use history, and nitrogen deposition effects on topsoil conditions across European temperate deciduous forests

Authors
  • Maes, Sybryn
  • Blondeel, Haben
  • Perring, Michael
  • Depauw, Leen
  • Brūmelis, Guntis
  • Brunet, Jörg
  • Decocq, Guillaume
  • den Ouden, Jan
  • Härdtle, Werner
  • Hédl, Radim
  • Heinken, Thilo
  • Heinrichs, Steffi
  • Jaroszewicz, Bogdan
  • Kirby, Keith
  • Kopecký, Martin
  • Máliš, František
  • Wulf, Monika
  • Verheyen, Kris
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2019
Source
Ghent University Institutional Archive
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown
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Abstract

Topsoil conditions in temperate forests are influenced by several soil-forming factors, such as canopy composition (e.g. through litter quality), land-use history, atmospheric deposition, and the parent material. Many studies have evaluated the effects of single factors on physicochemical topsoil conditions, but few have assessed the simultaneous effects of multiple drivers. Here, we evaluate the combined effects of litter quality, land-use history (past land cover as well as past forest management), and atmospheric deposition on several physicochemical topsoil conditions of European temperate deciduous forest soils: bulk density, proportion of exchangeable base cations, carbon/nitrogen-ratio (C/N), litter mass, bio-available and total phosphorus, pH(KCI)and soil organic matter. We collected mineral soil and litter layer samples, and measured site characteristics for 190 20 x 20 m European mixed forest plots across gradients of litter quality (derived from the canopy species composition) and atmospheric deposition, and for different categories of past land cover and past forest management. We accounted for the effects of parent material on topsoil conditions by clustering our plots into three soil type groups based on texture and carbonate concentration. We found that litter quality was a stronger driver of topsoil conditions compared to land-use history or atmospheric deposition, while the soil type also affected several topsoil conditions here. Plots with higher litter quality had soils with a higher proportion of exchangeable base cations, and total phosphorus, and lower C/N-ratios and litter mass. Furthermore, the observed litter quality effects on the topsoil were independent from the regional nitrogen deposition or the soil type, although the soil type likely (co)-determined canopy composition and thus litter quality to some extent in the investigated plots. Litter quality effects on topsoil phosphorus concentrations did interact with past land cover, highlighting the need to consider land-use history when evaluating canopy effects on soil conditions. We conclude that forest managers can use the canopy composition as an important tool for influencing topsoil conditions, although soil type remains an important factor to consider.

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