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Forest humus forms as potential indicators of soil carbon storage in Mediterranean environments

Andreetta, Anna, Ciampalini, Rossano, Moretti, Pierpaolo, Vingiani, Simona, Poggio, Giorgio, Matteucci, Giorgio, Tescari, Francesca, Carnicelli, Stefano
Biology and fertility of soils 2011 v.47 no.1 pp. 31-40
Mediterranean climate, carbon, carbon sequestration, carbon sinks, climate change, drought, forest soils, forests, humus, organic matter, summer, topsoil
The aim of this work was to investigate the potential of forest humus forms as indicators of soil C storage. To this purpose, Mediterranean forest soils in Southern and Central Italy were examined. Sites differed for elevation, climate, parent material and vegetation conditions, while summer drought was the common ecological factor. A morpho-functional criterion, based on holorganic layers thickness and A horizon properties, was used to classify humus forms, which ranged from Dysmoder to Eumull. Such variability allowed understanding of factors influencing organic matter storage. The relations between carbon stock and humus form were investigated for the topsoil layer (0-20 cm), which was supposed to contain the soil C pools most sensitive to climate change. We found that humus forms can be grouped in statistically different populations, with respect to topsoil C stocks. The use of A horizon structure was the main diagnostic criterion and represented the most effective approach to humus classification in Mediterranean conditions. It appears that humus forms have a clear potential as indicators of organic carbon status in Mediterranean forest soils.