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Quantifying carbon and nitrogen losses by respiration and leaching from decomposing woody debris in reforested coniferous stands in Ireland

Pastore, Giovanni, Tobin, Brian, Nieuwenhuis, Maarten
Agricultural and forest meteorology 2019 v.265 pp. 195-207
Picea sitchensis, carbon, chronosequences, coarse woody debris, conifers, drying, forest ecosystems, forest stands, forest types, harvesting, leachates, leaching, nitrogen, plantations, rain, reforestation, soil temperature, soil water, water content, water quality, Ireland
Losses of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) from the decomposition of woody debris in harvested forest ecosystems is of interest in national C accounting, regional water quality assessment as well as for managing long-term localised forest fertility. The main commercial forest type in Ireland is Sitka spruce dominated plantations and the woody debris from harvesting is routinely gathered into windrows in reforested stands. This study examined woody decomposition losses via two pathways namely respiration to the atmosphere and rainwater leaching to soil water. A chronosequence of forest stands was sampled, ranging in age (of the harvest debris) from three to fifteen years.Respiratory C loss from windrows was found to be 11.5 t C ha−1 year−1 three years after reforestation. This rate had dropped by 29% to 8.1 t C ha−1 yr−1 twelve years later. There was a strong seasonal trend in this efflux and the main driver of this variation was soil temperature, however moisture content and drying/rewetting cycles also played a role. Leached losses of C followed a similar trend to respired losses, but their rate was consistently less than 1% of respiration. Total dissolved N fluxes in woody debris leachate followed a different pattern, where more was retained by the system than lost. Thus, windrowed woody debris acted as a nutrient reservoir for N but as a steady source of C.