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Acidity, nutrient stocks, and organic-matter content in soils of a temperate deciduous forest with different abundance of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.)

Guckland, Anja, Jacob, Mascha, Flessa, Heiner, Thomas, Frank M., Leuschner, Christoph
Zeitschrift für Pflanzenernährung und Bodenkunde 2009 v.172 no.4 pp. 500-511
Acer pseudoplatanus, Carpinus betulus, Fagus sylvatica subsp. sylvatica, Fraxinus excelsior, Tilia cordata, acidification, acidity, base saturation, clay, deciduous forests, exchangeable aluminum, exchangeable calcium, exchangeable magnesium, humus, limes, limestone, mixed forests, mixed stands, nutrients, organic matter, plant litter, soil acidification, soil depth, soil heterogeneity, soil pH, temperate soils, Germany
The production and composition of leaf litter, soil acidity, exchangeable nutrients, and the amount and distribution of soil organic matter were analyzed in a broad-leaved mixed forest on loess over limestone in Central Germany. The study aimed at determining the current variability of surface-soil acidification and nutrient status, and at identifying and evaluating the main factors that contributed to the variability of these soil properties along a gradient of decreasing predominance of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and increasing tree-species diversity. Analyses were carried out in (1) mature monospecific stands with a predominance of beech (DL 1), (2) mature stands dominated by three deciduous-tree species (DL 2: beech, ash [Fraxinus excelsior L.], lime [Tilia cordata Mill. and/or T. platyphyllos Scop.]), and (3) mature stands dominated by five deciduous-tree species (DL 3: beech, ash, lime, hornbeam [Carpinus betulus L.], maple [Acer pseudoplatanus L. and/or A. platanoides L.]).The production of leaf litter was similar in all stands (3.2 to 3.9 Mg dry matter ha⁻¹ y⁻¹) but the total quantity of Ca and Mg deposited on the soil surface by leaf litter increased with increasing tree-species diversity and decreasing abundance of beech (47 to 88 kg Ca ha⁻¹ y⁻¹; 3.8 to 7.9 kg Mg ha⁻¹ y⁻¹). The soil pH₍H₂O₎ and base saturation (BS) measured at three soil depths down to 30 cm (0-10 cm, 10-20 cm, 20-30 cm) were lower in stands dominated by beech (pH = 4.2 to 4.4, BS = 15% to 20%) than in mixed stands (pH = 5.1 to 6.5, BS = 80% to 100%). The quantities of exchangeable Al and Mn increased with decreasing pH and were highest beneath beech. Total stocks of exchangeable Ca (0-30 cm) were 12 to 15 times larger in mixed stands (6660 to 9650 kg ha⁻¹) than in beech stands (620 kg ha⁻¹). Similar results were found for stocks of exchangeable Mg that were 4 to 13 times larger in mixed stands (270 to 864 kg ha⁻¹) than in beech stands (66 kg ha⁻¹). Subsoil clay content and differences in litter composition were identified as important factors that contributed to the observed variability of soil acidification and stocks of exchangeable Ca and Mg. Organic-C accumulation in the humus layer was highest in beech stands (0.81 kg m⁻²) and lowest in stands with the highest level of tree-species diversity and the lowest abundance of beech (0.27 kg m⁻²).The results suggest that redistribution of nutrients via leaf litter has a high potential to increase BS in these loess-derived surface soils that are underlain by limestone. Species-related differences of the intensity of soil-tree cation cycling can thus influence the rate of soil acidification and the stocks and distribution of nutrients.