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Properties of dissolved organic matter in forest soils: Influence of different plant covering

Traversa, Andreina, D'Orazio, Valeria, Senesi, Nicola
Forest ecology and management 2008 v.256 no.12 pp. 2018-2028
forest soils, soil organic matter, dissolved organic matter, forest litter, physicochemical properties, chemical composition, spectral analysis, fluorescence, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, soil properties, degradation, lignin, soil depth, forest trees, species differences, Quercus ilex, Carpinus betulus, Carpinus orientalis, Pinus halepensis, Italy
The nature of different forest plant litters and the effect of their degradation processes on the properties of soil dissolved organic matter is a very important environmental issue in protected areas such as the “Natural Oriented Reserve Bosco delle Pianelle” in Southern Italy, Chemical and spectroscopic techniques were used to evaluate the influence of four different tree covers on the properties of dissolved organic matter (DOM) isolated from litter and surface soil layers. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy analysis showed that all litter samples feature a prevalent aromatic character. Ligninolitic components of litters produced by Pinus halepensis L. and a mixture of Quercus trojana Webb. and Q. ilex L. were more degraded than those produced by either Q. ilex or a mixture of Carpinus betulus L. and C. orientalis Miller. The larger C/N ratios of the former litters might account for the greater degradation. Further, a lesser lignin decomposition was shown also for the latter samples, likely due to adverse topographical factors, such as less intense sunlight and greater moisture content. Spectroscopic analysis of litter DOM showed that easily degraded components, such as water-soluble compounds and carbohydrates, were preferentially degraded resulting in DOM that was enriched in lignin-derived compounds. Fluorescence analysis data of all litter DOM samples showed the occurrence of fluorescent units qualitatively similar regardless of plant covering, which suggests that in all cases simple structural components of low-molecular weight and small degree of aromatic polycondensation and content of conjugated chromophores are present. Soil DOM featured several numerous fluorescent units that differ as a function of the parent litter and/or its decomposition processes. Along the soil profiles water-soluble aliphatic compounds of low-molecular weight are found down to the deepest layer, whereas aromatic-ligninolitic compounds are decreasing with depth, probably because of their adsorption by mineral soil components. A greater amount of aromatic units, likely lignin-derived compounds, was found in the DOM from P. halepensis L., which suggested a more extended lignin decomposition. Further, with increasing soil depth, DOM was characterized by a decrease of low-molecular weight organic molecules and lower degree of humification.