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A Tree Species Effect on Soil That Is Consistent Across the Species’ Range: The Case of Aspen and Soil Carbon in North America
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Forests 2017, 8(4), 118; doi:10.3390/f8040118

Can Carbon Fluxes Explain Differences in Soil Organic Carbon Storage under Aspen and Conifer Forest Overstories?

Department of Wildland Resources and Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA
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Academic Editor: Laurent Augusto
Received: 25 January 2017 / Revised: 31 March 2017 / Accepted: 6 April 2017 / Published: 11 April 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tree Species, as Major Drivers of Forest Ecosystems Functioning)
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Abstract

Climate- and management-induced changes in tree species distributions are raising questions regarding tree species-specific effects on soil organic carbon (SOC) storage and stability. Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) is the most widespread tree species in North America, but fire exclusion often promotes the succession to conifer dominated forests. Aspen in the Western US have been found to store more SOC in the mineral soil than nearby conifers, but we do not yet fully understand the source of this differential SOC accumulation. We measured total SOC storage (0–50 cm), characterized stable and labile SOC pools, and quantified above- and belowground litter inputs and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fluxes during snowmelt in plots located in N and S Utah, to elucidate the role of foliage vs. root detritus in SOC storage and stabilization in both ecosystems. While leaf litterfall was twice as high under aspen as under conifers, input of litter-derived DOC with snowmelt water was consistently higher under conifers. Fine root (<2 mm) biomass, estimated root detritus input, and root-derived DOC fluxes were also higher under conifers. A strong positive relationship between root and light fraction C content suggests that root detritus mostly fueled the labile fraction of SOC. Overall, neither differences in above- and belowground detritus C inputs nor in detritus-derived DOC fluxes could explain the higher and more stable SOC pools under aspen. We hypothesize that root–microbe–soil interactions in the rhizosphere are more likely to drive these SOC pool differences. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil organic carbon; tree species-effect; detritus input; litterfall; root turnover; dissolved organic carbon; Populus tremuloides soil organic carbon; tree species-effect; detritus input; litterfall; root turnover; dissolved organic carbon; Populus tremuloides
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Boča, A.; Van Miegroet, H. Can Carbon Fluxes Explain Differences in Soil Organic Carbon Storage under Aspen and Conifer Forest Overstories? Forests 2017, 8, 118.

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