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Admixing Fir to European Beech Forests Improves the Soil Greenhouse Gas Balance

Rehschuh, Stephanie, Fuchs, Martin, Tejedor, Javier, Schäfler-Schmid, Anja, Magh, Ruth-Kristina, Burzlaff, Tim, Rennenberg, Heinz, Dannenmann, Michael
Forests 2019 v.10 no.3
Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica subsp. sylvatica, autumn, climate change, deforestation, drought, emissions, forests, greenhouse gases, irrigation, nutrient retention, soil organic carbon, soil respiration, soil-atmosphere interactions, summer, wet-dry cycles, winter, Germany
Research highlights: The admixture of fir to pure European beech hardly affected soil-atmosphere CH<inf>4</inf> and N<inf>2</inf>O fluxes but increased soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks at a site in the Black Forest, Southern Germany. Background and objectives: Admixing deep-rooting silver fir has been proposed as a measure to increase the resilience of beech forests towards intensified drying-wetting cycles. Hence, the goal of this study was to quantify the effect of fir admixture to beech forests on the soil-atmosphere-exchange of greenhouse gases (GHGs: CO<inf>2</inf>, CH<inf>4</inf> and N<inf>2</inf>O) and the SOC stocks by comparing pure beech (BB) and mixed beech-fir (BF) stands in the Black Forest, Germany. Materials and methods: To account for the impact of drying-wetting events, we simulated prolonged summer drought periods by rainout shelters, followed by irrigation. Results: The admixture of fir to pure beech stands reduced soil respiration, especially during autumn and winter. This resulted in increased SOC stocks down to a 0.9 m depth by 9 t C ha&minus;1 at BF. The mixed stand showed an insignificantly decreased sink strength for CH<inf>4</inf> (&minus;4.0 under BB and &minus;3.6 kg C ha&minus;1 year&minus;1 under BF). With maximal emissions of 25 &micro;g N m&minus;2 h&minus;1, N<inf>2</inf>O fluxes were very low and remained unchanged by the fir admixture. The total soil GHG balance of forest conversion from BB to BF was strongly dominated by changes in SOC stocks. Extended summer droughts significantly decreased the soil respiration in both BB and BF stands and increased the net CH<inf>4</inf> uptake. Conclusions: Overall, this study highlights the positive effects of fir admixture to beech stands on SOC stocks and the total soil GHG balance. In view of the positive impact of increased SOC stocks on key soil functions such as water and nutrient retention, admixing fir to beech stands appears to be a suitable measure to mitigate climate change stresses on European beech stands.