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Land-use and fire drive temporal patterns of soil solution chemistry and nutrient fluxes

Potthast, Karin, Meyer, Stefanie, Crecelius, Anna C., Schubert, Ulrich S., Tischer, Alexander, Michalzik, Beate
The Science of the total environment 2017
Fagus, aluminum, calcium, cations, chemical bases, ecological function, ecosystems, fires, forests, iron, land use, magnesium, manganese, monitoring, nitrogen, organic matter, pH, pastures, potassium, risk, seasonal variation, silicon, sodium, soil acidification, soil solution, statistical models, sulfur, topsoil
Land-use type and ecosystem disturbances are important drivers for element cycling and bear the potential to modulate soil processes and hence ecosystem functions. To better understand the effect of such drivers on the magnitude and temporal patterns of organic matter (OM) and associated nutrient fluxes in soils, continuous flux monitoring is indispensable but insufficiently studied yet. We conducted a field study to elucidate the impact of land-use and surface fires on OM and nutrient fluxes with soil solution regarding seasonal and temporal patterns analyzing short (<3months) and medium-term (3–12months) effects. Control and prescribed fire-treated topsoil horizons in beech forests and pastures were monitored biweekly for dissolved and particulate OM (DOM, POM) and solution chemistry (pH value, elements: Ca, Mg, Na, K, Al, Fe, Mn, P, S, Si) over one post-fire year. Linear mixed model analyses exhibited that mean annual DOM and POM fluxes did not differ between the two land-use types, but were subjected to strong seasonal patterns. Fire disturbance significantly lowered the annual soil solution pH in both land-uses and increased water fluxes, while DOC fluxes remained unaffected. A positive response of POC and S to fire was limited to short-term effects, while amplified particulate and dissolved nitrogen fluxes were observed in the longer run and co-ocurred with accelerated Ca and Mg fluxes. In summary, surface fires generated stronger effects on element fluxes than the land-use. Fire-induced increases in POM fluxes suggest that the particulate fraction represent a major pathway of OM translocation into the subsoil and beyond. With regard to ecosystem functions, pasture ecosystems were less prone to the risk of nutrient losses following fire events than the forest. In pastures, fire-induced base cation export may accelerate soil acidification, consequently exhausting soil buffer systems and thus may reduce the resilience to acidic depositions and disturbances.