A Quantitative Model of Soil Organic Matter Accumulation During Floodplain Primary Succession
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Bechtold, J.S. & Naiman, R.J. Ecosystems (2009) 12: 1352. doi:10.1007/s10021-009-9294-9
Texture is an important influence on organic matter (SOM) dynamics in upland soils but little is known about its role in riverine soils. We hypothesized that texture might be especially important to SOM accumulation in young alluvial soils. We combined the soil component of the CENTURY ecosystem model, which uses sand, silt, and clay concentration as primary variables, with a simple simulation model of fluvial deposition, and forest production to predict changes in soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) during primary succession on floodplains and terraces of the Queets River, Washington. Simulated soil C accumulated to a plateau of about 4000 g m−2 at 110 years, closely matching observed patterns in an empirical chronosequence. Although direct fluvial OM deposition had only a small and short-lived influence on soil C, fluvial silt and clay deposition were an important influence on equilibrium C. The model underestimated soil N by about 35%, which appears to be due to failure of the model to account for N enrichment of an OM pool after its initial formation. These results suggest that basic influences on SOM retention in these young soils are not functionally different than those that apply to upland soils, but occur within highly dynamic physical contexts. Overbank deposition of silt and clay establishes a basic capacity for SOM retention. SOM, in turn, facilitates N retention. In this way, silt and clay are instrumental in propagating N forward from N-fixing red alder (Alnus rubra) stands to mature conifer forests that are frequently N-limited.